A bid to relieve pressure on national electricity
Cape Town residents will soon be paying for high pressure solar water heaters by way of domestic rates bills, writes Anna-marie Smith
THE City of Cape Town earlier this month issued a Request for Proposals from service providers for a solar water heater roll-out to households as part of a five to seven year plan.
In line with the city's commitment to a reduced carbon footprint, the intention is to relieve pressure on the national electricity supply, support local economic development through job creation, and provide cost savings for households faced with increased electricity costs.
Alderman Belinda Walker, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic, Environment and Spatial Planning says the city's intention is for appointed service providers to provide high pressure solar water heaters to replace existing conventional electrical geysers in Cape Town households.
Walker says the city is lending support by providing a service allowing recipients to pay for units through their consolidated rates bill instead of making large capital outlays for purchases. “There would be no upfront payment, and households would typically pay less for units than their associated savings on electricity, for not heat- ing water in electric geysers.”
She says households will be able to select pay back periods best suited to individual circumstances, such as older people with greater disposable income possibly paying it off sooner than young families with extensive cash flow responsibilities. The City will support and endorse service providers that can prove quality, dependability and reliability in product and service delivery, warranty and maintenance.
Cape Business has applauded this move, saying they would like to see similar action by other councils nationally.
Peter Haylett, Chairman of the Cape Chamber of Business Industrial Focus Portfolio Committee said: “The mass roll-out of solar water heaters will actually cost the city some of their income from electricity sales, but there is no doubt that it will benefit us all in the long term.” He said this imaginative scheme sets an example for the rest of the country, and the introduction of similar schemes nationally would be welcomed.
In view of consumers not seeing decreasing tariffs of the national grid in the foreseeable future, the SWH solution will pro- vide immediate relief through savings, that should coincide with electricity tariff increases, as well as produce long-term savings once SWH’s had been paid off.
From a cost perspective to consumers, replacing a conventional electric geyser with high pressure systems is currently around R20 000. This system has an electric element and provides the equivalent hot water service of a conventional electric geyser, except that it replaces some of the electricity by using solar energy. If monitored on a seasonal basis, and by introducing saving mechanisms such as timers, optimum savings are possible. Low pressure systems currently cost around R4 000, are not fitted with electric elements and usually serve households in the absence of conventional electric geysers.
By benefiting end users, the City — who traditionally purchases electricity from Eskom and selling it to consumers at a profit, will be forfeiting part of its income stream. Walker says although it will require an innovative juggling act to retain this revenue, because the City is providing a painless financing facility to consumers without actually funding the project, it has been structured in the best interest of all parties concerned.
From a sustainable business perspective, Haylett said the next step towards cost effective energy usage would be for the city to review regulations on the use of gas. “Peaking power is the most expensive electricity generated and that is where we should look for more savings. The city should do everything possible to encourage the use of gas.”
Walker says the city is considering all options for possible gas use solutions, and while not a quick fix, it can offer instantaneous economic relief despite currently being an expensive commodity.
Alderman Belinda Walker, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic, Environment and Spatial Planning.