Monday, September 1, 2008

Incentives needed to boost uptake of solar-powered geysers

The conversion of electric geysers to solar-powered geysers by State utility Eskom was “not working well”, and incentives were needed to ensure that individuals actively take up the process of the conversion of geysers.

This was according to Gauteng local government MEC Quedani Dorothy Mahlangu, who was speaking at the Greenbuilding conference and exhibition, held in Midrand this week.

Addressing delegates on Thursday, Mahlangu emphasised that the country needed to ensure that it acted collectively to promote security of supply of electricity.

She said that South Africans needed to start “thinking out of the box” to ensure that they conserved resources, such as water and electricity, for security of supply for future generations.

“It is not only about retrofitting of households, but also industries and looking into the concept of smart metering. By far, retrofitting of households will not significantly reduce the energy consumption compared with that of businesses or large offices, however, in households we are concerned about the rolling out of solar-powered geysers,” Mahlangu said.

The local government was looking into financing different models that could be implemented by the municipalities in the province that would allow citizens to retrofit.

A challenge, however, was the availability of solar-powered geysers, and she said that issues around quality arose when large quantities were being imported from China.

“We have to look at increasing capacity in this country, through manufacturing facilities. Currently we can produce about 10 000 units a year,” said Mahlangu.

Local government was keen on engaging with interested investors who could assist in improving South Africa’s manufacturing capacity.

Building regulations, she added, would have to ensure that all new buildings used solar-powered geysers.

Meanwhile competition is South Africa’s gas industry was required to help reduce escalating gas prices.

“Pricing of gas is one of the major stumbling block. The gas industry in South Africa is a monopoly, and we are working with different stakeholders to look into introducing competition into the industry aimed at reducing the gas prices,” she said.

Dilapidated and old infrastructure, particularly water and electricity infrastructure was another challenge and local government indicated that it was dealing with this issue, but partnerships, such as that with private sector, was essential in dealing with this challenge.

Improving the air quality in Gauteng, rehabilitating mine dumps that contribute to pollution, greening the province especially in townships and low cost development houses, and reducing the use of coal in households was highlighted at the event as key issues on the provinces local governments agenda.