Money runs out for solar geysers

Cape Town – The rebate fund for Eskom’s solar water heater programme will run dry in the current financial year.

This was evident from a department of energy submission to the portfolio committee on Thursday.

After Eskom sharply increased the subsidy per solar water heater last year, in April this year it reduced the amount amid rising electricity prices and an increase in demand for solar geysers.

By April only R314m remained with which to finance its subsidy programme.

Eskom has indicated that the programme will cease once the money runs out.

In its submission the department stressed that the fund, which is almost depleted, is causing rising concern.

There is no indication as to whether it will be topped up.

The DA’s David Ross said the fact that the subsidy had already been reduced twice, and that dealers were limited to a certain number of installations a month, was worrying.

He believed the restriction would bring the programme to a halt.

In terms of the submission, dealers installing high-pressure systems can submit only 200 claims a month. No new approved dealer will be registered up to September 30 this year – and possibly after that as well.

The presentation states that on June 30 this year Eskom proposed a more structured approach to the allocation of subsidy funds.

In 2008 Eskom and the National Energy Regular of South Africa (Nersa) started working, together with other energy organisations, on a five-year programme to install solar geysers in South African households.

According to this programme. water heating is responsible for some 30% to 50% of an average household’s energy consumption.

In terms of government’s targets, by 2013  renewable energy must contribute up to 10 000 gigawatt hours towards the country’s total energy consumption. According to Eskom, solar water heaters could contribute up to 23% of this target.

The government has a target of installing a million solar water heaters by 2014. But by April 2011 only 64 000 had been installed in terms of Eskom’s subsidy programme.

The department of energy has launched a separate programme to install solar water heaters in low-cost housing on a large scale.

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