South African Utility Plans 1 Million Solar Water Heaters by 2015

south africa solar water image

Image credit: Eskom IDM

South Africa already hit the headlines for its ambitious plan to build a huge 5GW solar thermal power plant that could single-handedly provide 10% of the nation's electricity needs, and for pioneering promising solar power breakthroughs. But that is just one part of the country's efforts to ease pressure on a beleaguered power grid. Eskom, South Africa's power utility, is also planning on installing 1 million solar water heaters in the next few years. And for many, they will be free.Because South Africa provides a basic supply of electricity to poorer households—enough to power lights, but not necessarily to heat water—many households use dangerous and polluting paraffin heaters, while wealthier households still often use electricity for their hot water needs. News 24 reports that Eskom's solar water heater program has already seen 30,000 free solar water heaters installed in just one township, and rebates offered to many wealthier families also. The result has already been a significant reduction in electricity demand and, presumably, paraffin usage:

"Eskom and government's joint objective is to save energy and to encourage the use of renewable energy, as well as to provide relief to low income households," said Eskom spokesperson Hillary Joffe. The solar project has already reduced the demand for electricity by 22MW, she said.

It's not, however, all good news. Huge new coal plants are also being built to meet the country's energy demands. But with South Africa already emitting 50% of the entire continent's greenhouse gas emissions, and with climate talks planned in Durban in November, it's little wonder that the Rainbow Nation is looking to tap in to energy from the sun.

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