role of cities
SA and the GCR
green initiatives
solar energy
energy efficiency
water and sanitation
mobilising the region
solar energy – integrating environmental and developmental concerns

Solar water heaters (SWHs) can effectively replace conventional electrical geysers, kettles and other water heating methods used to provide hot water for household cleaning and personal hygiene in both high- and low-income homes.

the case

  • SWHs reduce the demand for electricity generated in coal-fired power stations
    • thereby lessening emissions of harmful pollutants into the environment
    • and mitigating against South Africa facing further electricity shortage crises by reducing peak demand
  • SWHs create far more jobs than conventional power generating means
  • lower energy consumption means lower electricity bills
  • SWHs provide readily available hot water in low-income households that were previously reliant on time-consuming heating processes.

the opportunity

  • SWHs offer government the means to achieve electrification targets
  • much smaller increases in electricity supply required
  • in high-income groups SWHs offer long-term savings and environmental benefits
  • in low-income communities, similar benefits are provided, as well as drastic improvements in peoples’ quality of life.

So, although SWHs make more environmental and economic sense for high-income consumers, they offer important developmental service for poor users without harm to the environment.

Therefore, solar energy can act as a powerful agent to reduce inequality in society through a technology that provides significant social upliftment opportunities.

the benefits

  • The energy that could be saved through SWHs is comparable to that produced by a small 300MW power station
  • These savings are particularly valuable since
    • a significant part would occur in peak electricity demand periods when national supply is shortest and generation most expensive, at up to R2.50/kWh for gas or diesel power generation
    • during this time, residential electricity use accounts for up to 30% of demand. (Eskom (2009) 'Residential Load Management FAQ')
    • savings would reduce residential electricity demand by roughly 18%.

what SWHs have got going for them                          

  • It is a well-established industry in South Africa         
  • Scale-up would ensure significant job creation,especially amongst semi-skilled individuals
  • It provides a key entry point into ‘green economy’ development by addressing environmental and developmental needs.

what still needs attention in terms of implementation

  • The industry is relatively small in terms of output
  • The up-front installation costs are too high for most, but especially for low-income households
  • Government policy and subsidy support are required to see the technology rolled out successfully.


Gauteng’s proposed 2025 SWH targets (from the Department of Local Government and Housing, 'Gauteng Integrated Energy Strategy')

  • 95% of mid- to high-income households (0.8% population growth) 1 266 393 systems installed (from City of Johannesburg (2007) 'Spatial Development Framework')
  • 50% of low-income households (0.8% population growth) 666 522 systems installed (58% of the households in the province are classed in LSM 1-6 (Holm 2005) and the assumption is that this figure will fall to around 50% by 2025 if development targets are achieved)

The GCRO’s 2009 'Quality of Life' survey estimates that less than 0.1% of Gauteng residents currently use a solar water heater.


what do we recommend to achieve the targeted roll-out?

  • By-laws should be promulgated that make SWH installation compulsory
    • when existing electrical geysers break down
    • on all newly built middle- to high-income market houses
  • SWHs should be included in all new government-subsidised housing projects
  • Existing housing projects should be gradually retrofitted
    • retrofitting can be undertaken as part of the Community Employment Programme (CEP)
    • with young people with matric or Higher Education being recruited, trained and qualified to install and maintain SWHs by the CEP
    • once qualified in maintenance, graduates can be helped to set up their own SMMEs to provide SWH maintenance and more general, related plumbing and electrical services
  • The local SWH industry should be supported to ensure maximum economic development, through
    • a subsidy scheme to local manufacturers to kick-start the sector; or
    • a preferential procurement system supporting locally made systems once the sector is established
  • A critical factor in the successful roll-out of SWHs as a green economy initiative is the development of a financing scheme for the retrofitting of homes –
    • this could be included in the rates and taxes; or
    • as separate from local municipalities.