Electricity utility Eskom has seen a dramatic increase in interest in installing solar water heater (SWH) systems since the rebate was increased earlier this year, the utility's acting senior GM for integrated demand management Corrie Visagie said on Wednesday.
Eskom has received expressions of interest from energy services companies, municipalities and SWH installers indicating aspirations to install some 800 000 systems across South Africa.
Visagie noted that the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Bay municipality was particularly advanced, with plans to install some 120 000 units.
"Eskom is doing great work in exponentially increasing the uptake of SWHs," said Sustainable Energy Society of South Africa SWH ambassador Irvan Damon.
He added that since the rebate had been increased, some 7 500 SWH systems had been installed, documentation processed, and systems paid for, while some 500 systems that had been installed, were processed and awaiting payment.
Concern over funding for the rebate programme was previously raised, in connection with the standard offer programme (SOP) where it was tabled that Eskom's funds for the SWH programme be put into a separate fund administered by an entity outside Eskom.
Visagie clarified that after recent discussions between Eskom and the Department of Energy (DoE), it was decided that funds for the SOP would not be derived from Eskom's demand-side management (DSM) funds, which had been determined through the second multiyear price determination (MYPD2) process.
Eskom was allocated R5,4-billion for DSM initiatives under MYPD2, of which about R1,2-billion was set aside for the SWH programme to 2013.
Funding for the DoE's SOP would be sourced elsewhere.
Energy Minister Dipuo Peters has outlined the country's vision to roll out one-million SWHs by 2014.
Damon said that while the uptake of SWH systems had improved significantly, there were still challenges that needed to be overcome. The South African Bureau of Standards testing process remained a barrier to entry, and local manufacture needed to be incentivised because many SWH systems were being imported.
"Consumer education is key," added Damon, noting that information and marketing of solar water heating would be vital in ensuring that ambitious roll-out targets were met.