The South African government is creating an enabling environment through a rebate scheme for the implementation of low-pressure solar water heaters for low-inocme households.


  1. Objective
  2. Target Group
  3. Output
  4. Key Features of the Case
  5. Sustainable Financing
  6. Supportive Policies and Institutional Environment
  7. Building Local Capacity and Skills
  8. Community Participation and Including Local Stakeholders
  9. Achieving Co-Benefits
  10. Affordability and Technical Issues
  11. Local Champions
  12. Monitoring and Evaluation
  13. Replicability and Scaling-up
  14. Contact
  15. References and Further Reading



The objective is to provide low-income households with solar water heaters which allow for gratis heating of water. The South African Department of Energy has an official target to install 1 000 000 solar water heaters by 2014. The solar geysers shall help replacing 10 000 GWh of fossil fuel based electricity through renewable energy by 2013. Solar water heating is meant to contribute 23% (2300GWh) (Eskom, 2011).


Target Group

Low-pressure solar water heater (swh) are installed in low-income households. Less solid housing structures like shacks usually do not receive a swh.



In June 2012, about 40 000 high-pressure and 130 000 low-pressure systems had been installed (Eskom, 2012).


Key Features of the Case

A rebate scheme from the national electricity utility Eskom lead to an increase in the number of systems installed. Different projects in South Africa are designed with the common feature in making use of the rebate as finance option. Previous projects and government attempts to up-scale these were succeeded by the rebate achievements between 2009 and 2012.


Sustainable Financing

Eskom has partnered with government and local municipalities in South Africa to provide free low-pressure swh to low-income households. Local municipalities in the selected areas will use funds allocated to them by the Department of Energy and will have Eskom assist them with the operational and technical matters related to the roll outs.


In other areas the Eskom rebate scheme is providing partial funding for solar water systems. Local authorities will determine which households will get priority, in most instances priority will be given to: Low cost houses that are connected to the electricity network, Low income households, Permanent built brick structures (Eskom, 2011).


Some projects made also use of carbon financing through mainly the voluntary market, but as in the case of the Kuyasa CDM Project also the compliance market.


Supportive Policies and Institutional Environment

The roll-out was enabled through a collaboration of local government, state-owned ESKOM and private companies supplying and installing the swh. With the private sector-led approach, maintenance and skills transfer is a challenge to the programme. Different levels of commitment and contractual obligations lead to varying success in terms of ensuring households are educated on the technology and long-term maintenance systems are in place.


Building Local Capacity and Skills

The potential for local job and skills creation related to swh installations is significant. Depending, however, on the conditions formulated when procuring contractors for the installation of systems, projects might involve more or less local contractors and workers in the installation and maintenance of the systems. Ideally local people with an interest in plumbing or existing plumbing business are trained in the installation of low-pressure solar water heaters. Local maintenance capacity and fast responses to general operations queries can improve local ownership and acceptance of the technology and create an opportunity for small and medium enterprise establishment.


In practice, the roll-out is often conducted by large companies and without particular attention to the inclusion of local businesses and skills. Further research is, however, needed to anlayse the shortcomings in more details.


Community Participation and Including Local Stakeholders

The level of community participation in the design, implementation and maintenance of swh projects varies throughout the country. The majority of projects seem to have followed a rather top-down approach, where in some cases external swh suppliers and contractors roll-out systems rather fast and without consulting local residents.


Other projects are examples of participatory planning and implementation achieving a great sense of local ownership. Outstanding to date is the Kuyasa CDM Project which not only consulted and discussed with the future owners and users of the installed technology, but also provided certified training and employment for local residents (Goldman, 2010).


Whether a project is designed in a top-down or bottom-up manner depends on a number of factors including available funding and funding conditions and the skills and mandate of the project management.


Achieving Co-Benefits

There is a variety of co-benefits associated with solar water heating. The dependency of a household on heated water also due to climate conditions they situated in, determines the potential for heated water to improve livelihoods. Table 1 is attempting to list potential changes through swh installations applying the sustainable livelihood framework.


The achieved co-benefits of the discussed roll-out are fairly unclear. Early findings indicate that even though most projects report great relief and improvements in the households through the new technology, negative aspects associated with the operation and maintenance of the solar systems are cause of unsatisfaction. Additional research is required, observing changes over a longer period of time.




Affordability and Technical Issues

In South Africa, swh are often installed free of charge to low-income households. Once the one-year warranty has past, the maintenance responsibility and associated costs are to be covered by the households. The costs for such depend on the type of the installed swh.


Local Champions

This really depends on the projects, but the Kuyasa CDM Project is again show casted as good practice example. Their staff and managers are often found presenting the project to conferences and seminars hold in Cape Town and also travel around the country and even overseas to present about the achievements made in Kuyasa.


Monitoring and Evaluation

The monitoring and evaluation of swh installations in South Africa is partly done by Eskom which is recording application numbers for rebate finance. Projects not claiming the rebate for whatever reason might not be accounted for.


Replicability and Scaling-up

Recent institutional changes in the administration of the rebate scheme might lead to changes within the programme.


Independently from the rebate scheme was the concept of a National Sustainable Settlement Facility (NSSF) designed. The makers of the Kuyasa CDM Project around the NGO SouthSouthNorth and others have been involved in planning the NSSF which is still to be implemented. The concept was first developed as standalone programme and is since the formulation of National Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA) in the negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. NAMA's could be an option for financing and support of the concept.


The Kuyasa CDM Project is seen as pilot for this. Thermal performance in form of insulating ceilings and energy efficiency by the means of a solar water heater are the interventions (Energy Research Centre, 2010). "The NSSF NAMA is in advanced design phase. Housing and energy policy are strongly supportive of including sustainable energy interventions in low income housing, but a lack of capital financing and awareness of the interventions at a housing project level (both of which the NSSF address) present key barriers to policy implementation. A lengthy process of stakeholder consultation has characterised the development of the NSSF concept, which is championed by an Advisory Group consisting of the major public sector stakeholders to the programme. The DBSA is a co-developer and potential future programme manager of the NSSF facility" (Energy Research Centre, 2010).



Holle Wlokas, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Energy Research Centre, University of Cape Town


References and Further Reading

Energy Research Centre. (2010). Financing upgraded energy specifications of new South African low-income housing- draft.


Eskom. (2011). Cop 17 fact sheet.


Eskom. (2011). Low Pressure Solar Water Heater Roll-out Viva Free Hot Water Programme.


Eskom. (2012). An overview of energy efficiency and demand side management in South Africa.


Eskom. (2012). Eskom solar water heating programme Weekly administrative dashboard, Reporting period- week ending on 01/06/2012.


Frost and Sullivan. (2011). Eskom Slashes Solar Water Heater Rebates.


Goldman, M. (2010). Growing includive markets. Kuyasa CDM Project: Renewabel energy efficiency technology for the poor. United Nations Development Programme.


Wlokas, H. L. (2011). What contribution does the installation of solar water heaters make towards the alleviation of energy poverty in South Africa? Journal of Energy in Southern Africa, 27-39.


Solar water heater roll-out


South Africa




Public private partnerships between the Department of Energy, local municipalities and private companies.


Holle Wlokas, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Energy Research Centre, University of Cape Town



Energy resource:

  • Solar

Sub type:


    • Household


    • Heating
    • Other


    • Off-Grid

    Targeted area:

    • Rural
    • Urban
    • Peri-urban

    Geographical scope:


    Project status:

    Ongoing project

    Project start:


    End date:

    to date

    Implementing approach:

    Public private partnership

    Funding Type:

    • Rebate

    Budget (Euro):