Solar geyser use in SA gets a boost

A pilot project in Gauteng and the Western Cape was launched in mid-August to boost the use of solar water heating in South African households.

A pilot project in Gauteng and the Western Cape was launched in mid-August to boost the use of solar water heating in South African households.

The project deals with the two prime constraints to bringing solar geysers into the mainstream: a shortage of specialist skills and a lack of incentives for insured households to deviate from the commonly accepted electrical geysers that are traditionally covered by their short-term insurers.

The plan was initiated by Skills for Green Jobs (S4GJ), a joint initiative between the South African and German governments to promote alternative energy efficiency solutions. It involves specialised training in solar water heating technologies for 70 plumbing installers in Gauteng and the Western Cape. As part of the project, solar water heaters will also be introduced into South African households by six of the country’s largest short-term insurers (STI underwriters), thereby mainstreaming solar water heating at the homes of selected policyholders.

Dr Karsten Feuerriegel, S4GJ manager and technical adviser, says: “It makes sense to convert electrical geysers to solar water heating technologies — they are cost-effective, environmentally friendly and they do not strain South Africa’s power grid. But insurance companies must be satisfied that these technologies are reliable and, importantly, that the skills to install and maintain these technologies are accessible before they cover policyholders.”

In addition to bringing together the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB) and a number of the country’s largest insurers, S4GJ has designed a training programme complete with training material and textbooks. Quality assured by the Energy and Water Sector Education and Training Authority (EWSETA) and funded by the Insurance Sector Education and Training Authority (INSETA), the first group of fully trained installers will complete their training as early as March next year. The Institute of Plumbing South Africa is also a collaborating partner, as is Northlink College.

“This project is an opportunity to transform training in the country into a dual occupational training system that includes both theory and practice phases. Our role as INSETA is to ensure that training meets the requirements of insurance underwriters, who require the use of skilled installers to avoid returns in the claims process,” says INSETA CEO Sandra Dunn.

“Practice orientated ‘green’ skills training, supported by solar water heater demand enablers such as the STI underwriters, initiates sustainable platforms for green skills,” says Errol Gradwell, CEO of EWSETA. Participants are all employed installers working with qualified plumbers. The training kicks off at the end of September 2016 and is offered on weekends to accommodate work commitments.

Certification is dependent on the successful installation of at least five solar water roof-heating systems, which the short-term insurers will roll out with selected policyholders.

More about the S4GJ initiative
The S4GJ initiative aims to improve individual, institutional, and societal frameworks, thereby yielding qualified and skilled personnel as well as adequate technologies for the development of a green economy.

Funding of this pilot project is made available through the Insurance Sector Education and Training Authority. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, is supplementing the project with technical support by way of technology transfer and capacity development.


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