The following is taken from the Cape Times, March 11, 2008 Edition 2
COMPANIES supplying solar water heaters in South Africa have been run off their feet since Eskom started subsidizing the devices several weeks ago.
Eskom has embarked on a process of registering companies to provide the subsidized solar-water heaters after the firms comply with stringent criteria.
In early January, when the first subsidies were granted, there was only one registered supplier.
Now there are eight, five of them in the Western Cape, and the number is set to boom, said Eskom general strategy manager Andrew Etzinger.
The Eskom website gives an update of the registered companies, whose subsidies currently range from R2 166 to R4 917, the price depending on the efficiency of their systems.
"Since we got SABS approval and it's a very stringent test we're getting 50 calls a day," said David Kruyer of Pronto Plumbing, trading as Solar Pro. "Every man and his dog is now interested in this technology."
"We're getting huge numbers of e-mails and calls. I'm already booked up for the whole week," said Stevan Savic of Alt E Technologies.
"Everyone has gone solar crazy," said an industry source who asked not to be named.
Anybody buying a solar-water heater from an approved supplier gets the subsidy in the form of a discount, which the seller reclaims from Eskom.
Etzinger said that 7 000 systems were installed per year in recent years. The new target was 200 000 per year. They've embarked on a process of partnership with the industry. Almost been a case of re-engineering the industry, but it’s been very positive.
Accredited suppliers are now chock-a-block with orders.
Eskom had been helping the industry to meet the required standards, but there had been unforeseen obstacles, said Etzinger.
One was that suppliers did not know they needed SABS approval and their installations needed a certificate of compliance.
The registered systems are all installed with a timer or other load-management device, have a guarantee for at least five years and have passed SABS tests.
They have also passed the South African National Standards tests for thermal and mechanical performance and safety and are audited by Deloitte.
Heating water in the home accounts for between 30% and 50% of a households electricity consumption. It would take six to seven years for a household to recoup the cost of a solar-water heater in the savings on its electricity bill, but the heater is expected to last between 15 and 25 years.
In late January, the Department of Minerals and Energy published draft electricity regulations for public comment proposing that, among other things, all commercial and residential buildings with electric geysers should have solar water heating facilities added by 2010.
“Solar-water heaters are a massive opportunity to deal with our current (electricity) capacity shortage” said Etzinger.