Due to South Africa's current electricity crisis, solar water heaters have been proposed as a means of mitigating energy consumption and promoting energy efficiency. Phenomenal interest in this market since 2007, has poised it on the path of more growth, following the rebate system initiated to catalyse mass interest, and the potential release of mandatory building codes that will stipulate the installation of solar water heaters on new buildings.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (energy.frost.com), South African Solar Water Heater Market, finds that the market earned revenues of $41.6 million in 2009 and estimates this to reach $407.9 million by 2014. The Eskom rebate programme has facilitated some interest in the market, although new building code regulations would truly catalyse the market.
"Growth within the solar water heater market is caused by a combination of factors," notes Frost & Sullivan's EPS Industry Analyst Dominic Goncalves. "Namely, the increase in electricity price that is lowering the payback period of the product; the looming electricity crisis which will see load-shedding and thus a lack of domestic hot water supply in particular; environmental awareness; and the subsidisation of solar water heater products which are lowering their previously daunting high initial costs."
The rebate system developed by Eskom has provided the initial steps toward a government-supportive framework to rollout solar water heaters on a mass scale nationwide. Although teething problems have been experienced, the rebate programme is one of several mechanisms that will help propel the target set in 2007 to install one million solar water heaters nationwide by 2014.
Research indicates that 18 per cent of national electricity usage can be attributed to domestic water heating. Most of this domestic water heating occurs during the peak times at which Eskom struggles to supply electricity due to the extra strain on the power supply.
"Solar water heaters have been adopted internationally as a method to curb energy usage on the grid during peak times, as well as mitigate carbon emissions," remarks Goncalves. "Over 21 countries currently have incentivising policies to encourage solar water heaters, and incubatory measures such as the Eskom rebate program and mandatory new building codes are set to encourage the rollout of a million solar water heaters to be installed in South Africa by 2014, which would be the equivalent of building a 2,000 MW power station."
Bad quality products, lack of skills in installation, and end-user confusion about which is the correct system to purchase are currently the key challenges facing the solar water heater industry. The market is confronted with a barrage of low-quality products from China, which is exacerbated by a lack of skills prevalent in the installation sector. This has resulted in a suspicious opinion of solar water heater systems and a subsequent lack of interest by the South African consumer.
Many consumers have experienced problems regarding malfunctioning and inefficient systems," says Goncalves. "This is due to a mismatch between the correct product needed for their unique application, with faults occurring either on the product or installation side."
Although the rebate programme is a great initial step to get the ball rolling, a greater, more assertive framework will need to be implemented in order to attract the mass adoption needed to reach the one million systems target by end 2014. Such a framework could include making solar water heaters mandatory for new buildings, which would eradicate the restraining high initial cost of the product, by incorporating this into a new building's operating cost.
"The inclusion of solar water heaters into new building codes would vastly propagate the market and lead to significant job creation opportunities in both manufacturing and installation," states Goncalves. "If this is implemented, however, a coordinated drive will need to take place to ramp up the market on all sides."
There is a need to establish a locally-based manufacturing hub that will create products suited for South African applications. This will need to be accompanied by sufficient training for installers, appropriate accreditation and monitoring and a large-scale marketing and promotional drive by the government.
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South African Solar Water Heater Market / M679