Solar water heaters offer relief

2011-06-26 16:12

Port Elizabeth - For years the only hot water in Zoleka Mali's home came out of a pot on her paraffin stove.

But earlier this year, South Africa's power company Eskom installed a solar heater on her roof, giving her a free and endless supply of hot water as part of a campaign that aims to ease pressure on the grid and make solar power more popular.

"I don't know much about renewable energy though or environmental stuff," said Mali. What she does know is the clear benefits of her geyser.

"The geysers use the sun to heat up the water. My electricity is not affected and I have even stopped using my paraffin stove as it was dangerous," said the mother of two from Zwide township in Port Elizabeth.

Eskom offers a basic free allowance of electricity to low-income South Africans, which is enough to keep the lights on but not enough to have regular water for bathing or cleaning.

So many use paraffin stoves that are a leading cause of home fires which can be hard to contain in crowded neighbourhoods.

Mali is one of the 30 000 beneficiaries in Port Elizabeth, where the black and silver rooftop geysers have become known locally as "flies", because of the way they look from a distance, shimmering in the sun.

Electricity demand reduced

Eskom's objective is to install one million solar water heaters throughout country by 2015, with tens of thousands already installed in other cities around the country.

The company is offering 110-litre geysers for free in township homes, but wealthier families needing larger volumes also receive a subsidy to encourage them to switch to solar.

Eskom has so far spent R340m on its rebate programme.

"Eskom and government's joint objective is to save energy and to encourage the use of renewable energy, as well as to provide relief to low income households," said Eskom spokesperson Hillary Joffe.

The solar project has already reduced the demand for electricity by 22MW, she said.

That's a tiny fraction of the power produced by a coal power plant, but about one-fifth of the electricity that would be generated by a planned solar field in the arid Northern Cape.

Massive new coal plants are being built to cope with South Africa's energy needs, but international loans for those projects have also required the country to commit more resources to renewables.

The country already emits half of Africa's greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from coal-powered power stations.

The African Development Bank earlier this month approved a $365m loan to help fund Eskom's wind and solar projects.

The country is also keen to be perceived as more environmentally friendly in the run-up to UN climate talks in November in Durban, which will seek to create a deal to follow up on the Kyoto Protocol.

  • Sprinkaan - 2011-06-26 16:50

    It is all good and well, but how many of these geyser will be sold for scrap

      GonnyVonYuri - 2011-06-26 17:09

      be positive - people like u only have negative things to say - rather not say anything at all.

      Sprinkaan - 2011-06-26 17:51

      I is reality. That's all

      Petie - 2011-06-27 12:00

      Yes Springkaan, you are probably right. Besides the fact that to be able to afford a viable system is beyond the reach of pensioners - to have decent security and do your utmost for the environment appears to be limited to the 'poor' or the well-off. The so-called Eskom sudsidy is a rather expensive 'scam'.

  • ZACommentator - 2011-06-26 16:54

    WTF is this? They slap me with an increase and then give away geysers that use solar - meaning no income from them for Eskom ever? Brilliant business plan, fck this for a joke.

      GonnyVonYuri - 2011-06-26 17:10

      Government owned enterprise is more about the people than profit - reality check we dont have enough to supply - the less supplied the more profit as less power stations need to be built.

      ZACommentator - 2011-06-26 18:50

      The people meaning the sheep who vote ANC not the people who actually pay for this country to be run.

  • ian.d.samson - 2011-06-26 16:57

    Where's mine? I also want solar generator for running the computers when Eksdom goes on strike.

      GonnyVonYuri - 2011-06-26 17:11

      Its a solar geyser not solar generator.

      paulmandlankosi - 2011-06-26 17:17

      Is jy nie ook dom nie? Ek vra ne.

  • Wynand - 2011-06-26 17:28

    "....endless supply.....". Ha Ha Ha. Try a heat pump man :MUCH better!!

  • Punter - 2011-06-26 18:17

    She was using her paraffin stove to warm water how exactly does that relief pressure on the grid?

  • pswart40 - 2011-06-26 20:05

    I run a solar water heating business... Answer me this, it is said they are installing free SWH's to ease the pressure of the grid, when 99% percent of the 110lt systems are installed on houses that never had a geyser to begin with. How are you saving power then. What is worse is that it is funded by the rebates meant to go to people who are replacing there conventional geysers with SWH's. The system has been so abused that my system, that use to get a R12500 rebate, now only get a R8900 rebate. Forcing people to pay R3600 more on a system that is already expensive. Only in this country.

      Lawence - 2011-06-27 14:26

      You know, but choose to ignore, the fact that the government is expected to provide power and facilities (called services) to the people. This is a service. If they had instead fitted a standard geyser, there would be a further drain on the grid. If I was Eskom, I'd do the same

  • Mzungu - 2011-06-26 20:10

    Eskom should focus on providing power to SA first then give from the surplus to the neighbours not the other way round. This way the rates will remain low and power cuts obsolete. The article should have provided the names of reputed suppliers of solar systems and average pricing, there is a lot of dodgy suppliers out there.

      CooP - 2011-06-28 12:45

      I think that Eskom provides such a list on their website,

  • Gavin - 2011-06-26 20:33

    ... and some r more equal than others. why work?

  • Lionel - 2011-06-27 10:43

    This is a good thing; it's a pity that the ANC don't appreciate the benefits of a middle class, who's taxes and payments for utilities such electricity make this all possible.

  • Concern Person - 2011-06-27 10:47

    Well some inside information from a person whom is installing these geysers, these geysers are the cheap ones where "it is made in china" these geysers will only last for two years. if eskom is trying to save power then after two years there are back to square one, it is just a waste of money.

  • Concern Person - 2011-06-27 10:49

    Inside info from Eskom, these geysers are the cheap one "Made in China", these geysers only last for two years and then they fail. If Eskom is trying to save power then this initiative is just plain fruitless because they will be back to square one. It is just a waste of money.

  • Kenneth - 2011-06-27 11:32

    i just bought one for R30,000 can i have the money back eskom, i also want a free one.

  • China Expat - 2011-06-27 12:14

    If you only knew what the importers of solar water heaters are paying for them in China you would see who is screwing who, a 110L typically sells from between $110 - $180, landed cost add +/-30%, I live in China and have visited many of the factories and know the costs. Local SA businessmen creating their own gravy train.

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