Renewable-energy companies have been promoting their products in sectors where the products might not be the most appropriate for the task at hand, which has resulted in many consumers turning their backs on the renewables industry, says energy- saving solutions company Renu MD Ed Selley.
“Some installers attempt to fit their particular product into every solution and we frequently come across clients who have been misled into believing that a certain solution is better,” he tells Engineering News.
Selley adds that an ill-informed consumer base can be created when, for example, companies promote their heat pumps or solar water heating without informing clients that neither solution is perfect and that both have their advantages and disadvantages.
This means products are not sold according to merit, he says, adding that this has given the renewables industry a bad reputation, with potential clients refusing to engage with the renewables industry.
Selley notes that Renu, as a provider of heat pumps, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and solar water heaters, makes a point of providing all the necessary information about these products for clients.
The industry has too many ill-equipped service providers that do not have robust financial support, which has also impacted negatively on the renewables market, he states.
Renu installs most of its solar water heating solutions at household level, Selley says, but adds that the company has also completed projects for companies operating in the hospitality and fleet washing industry, where up to 10 000 ℓ of water is heated every two hours.
In terms of PV systems, he notes that load-shedding has been a significant stimulus to the solar PV market, as many middle- to high- income households are considering alternative ways of alleviating the burden of State-owned power utility Eskom’s electricity crisis on their lifestyles.
However, Selley advises that PV systems are rarely going to achieve a quick return on investment because of their high initial capital costs. He explains that the energy footprint of a home more often than not exceeds that of its roof space and many households do not face perfectly north, which compromises a PV system’s generating capacity.
Although Renu does not manufacture its products, sourcing them locally and from China and Europe, the company does not outsource any service and, therefore, undertakes the entire installation process, including a feasibility study, the system design, installation and commissioning, he highlights.
In addition to solar water heating, heat pumps and solar PV systems, Renu also provides industrial-scale light emitting diode (LED) solutions, as well as consulting services and water- recycling solutions.
Selley attests to the significant savings that can be achieved when using LEDs on a large scale. He explains that users can achieve an energy saving of about 90% when using a typical 5 W LED unit instead of a 60 W incandescent globe, and an energy saving of between 50% and 66% when using LEDs instead of an 11 W to a 16 W energy-saving bulb.
Selley says LED technology has improved significantly over the past three years, which has made LED technology the frontrunner in its field.
He notes that Renu finds it feasible to supply LED solutions only on a large industrial scale, as companies are prepared to invest in the higher-cost chip-on-board (COB) LED, as opposed to surface- mounted-device (SMD) LEDs.
“The smaller scale of our operation means that Renu cannot compete with hardware stores in supplying cheaper SMDs that tend to be used in households,” he says.
Selley explains that COBs are usually sold at triple the price of SMDs, but that they last many times longer. This more expensive technology is embraced in applications where constant 24-hour lighting is needed, such as cold storage, warehousing and manufacturing.
He notes that the demand for LED lighting has slumped since last year, when companies rushed to install LED lighting in response to an incentive programme from Eskom, which provided a 30% capital-cost reimbursement on completion of a retrofit for LED lighting. The incentive programme has since ended, which has lengthened the return on investment for an LED retrofit from less than three years to more than four years.
Selley says there are no LED light manufacturers in South Africa, with only a few assembly workshops, which is why Renu imports all its LEDs.