Back in 2008 when South Africa’s electricity issues started in earnest, with the whole country being subject to rolling blackouts (or ‘load-shedding’, if you’re trying to soften the blow), Eskom announced plans for a solar heating rebate project that would have seen homes that switches to solar energy for heating geysers securing some extra cash in addition to a lowered electricity bill.
Eskom has just announced that the rebate programme, which saw homes being awarded cash back of up to R12,000 for their solar installations, will be shifted from under the eyes of the utility and over to the Department of Energy. The switch is going to be happening soon however, with Eskom planning to go hands-off by 31 January this year.
The state utility’s goal for the program was to have 1 million South African homes connected to solar geyser setups, preferably a high-pressure solar water heating system, by 2013. They’ve missed that target, with 400,000 homes being connected to heating alternatives for their water needs. According to the Mail and Guardian, even this missed target makes SA’s program one of the largest in the world.
Eskom is reportedly going to be focusing on generating power capacity in South Africa rather than saving it and dropping the rebate programme on someone else’s lap is part of that. But the short notice could harm the project, which has admittedly seen a lot of power capacity in homes being switch to solar, according to the DA’s Lance Greyling.
The M&G reports Greyling as saying that “…if a new rebate programme does not start running immediately after Eskom withdraws, there will be a complete stop in installation and many companies and thousands of employees will be out of business and work.” This means that the Department of Energy will have to resurrect the rebate whole and breathing, immediately after they take over.
“This state of affairs must not be allowed to negatively affect an entire industry, risk jobs and threaten the livelihoods of those most in need of support. We need a proper government plan for solar water heaters that can urgently reduce demand to the grid and provide certainty to the industry so that it can flourish and provide much needed jobs.”
Still, we’re optimists rather than politicians. It might be that Eskom sorting out our current capacity issues and the Department of Energy taking over the rebate project is just what we need. Time will tell. In the meantime, turn your lights off if you’re not using them. And maybe purchase a genny or a gas cooker or two. Okay, maybe we’re not optimists.
Source: Mail and Guardian