Solar industry accused of collusion

2011-01-25 15:33

Cape Town - Not all is sunshine and light in the solar water heater industry, Parliament's economic development select committee heard on Tuesday.

There is a "lot of collusion between the different players" on prices, economic development department deputy director-general for electricity, nuclear and clean energy, Ompie Aphane, told members.

He said when power utility Eskom increased its solar water rebate in 2010, suppliers and distributors of solar water heating systems increased their prices too.

"Soon after the rebate was increased, as soon as Eskom announced that the rebate was going to be increased, so did the costs that the suppliers were charging.

"We are very convinced that at the import source... the costs are a lot less... And so you can read that there is something that is not adding up," Aphane said.

High cost

Eskom last year effectively doubled its subsidy rate for solar water heaters from about an average of R3 000 a system, to R6 000.

According to a document distributed among committee members, there were 108 accredited suppliers and 245 registered distributors of solar water heating systems in SA at the end of 2010.

Aphane said the current high cost of solar water heaters was among the reasons for the slow rollout of such systems across the country.

The majority of systems on offer - at "too high" prices, ranging from R9 000 to R35 000 each - were imported.

Responding to questions later in the briefing, Aphane said he was not in a position to "categorically" state collusion was taking place.

On progress toward the government's target of installing one million solar water heaters around the country by 2014, he said that by the end of last year, a cumulative total of 30 974 systems had been installed.

"We will exceed the threshold of 55 000 systems this financial year."

Electricity tariffs

Aphane said the government was looking at offering tax breaks to both companies and individuals who implemented energy efficiency schemes, including solar water heating.

This "carrot approach" was awaiting approval from the finance ministry, and the introduction of a reliable monitoring system.

Aphane said the projected doubling of electricity tariffs over the next three years would push many consumers toward installing solar heaters.

"As tariffs almost double, savings will increase, and therefore so will customer willingness to invest in solar water heaters."

He said there were currently an estimated 12 million households in SA. The government aimed to see between five and seven million of them fitted with solar heaters by 2019.

  • La Volpe - 2011-01-25 16:29

    Hmmm check out Solar Heat and Solar Hart prices after the Eskom rebate , identical and they increased their prices by , wait for it the rebate!

  • Piet - 2011-01-25 16:40

    Why not subsidize LED Globes. Far more effective

  • Sham - 2011-01-25 16:53

    Put an electronic timer on your geyser for R500 and watch immediate benefits. I save on average %60 of my previous bill. Id far rather spend that kind of capitol on converting to a gas cooking method before i looked at Solar.

  • DIrk - 2011-01-25 21:09

    I won't even need to pay the R500 for the timer. Just switch on the geyser for 0ne hour, then switch off. It costs only R120 per month, less than R1400 a year. How long is the warranty of the Solar Geyser before you need to spend the money for repair? What a waste of money.

  • Just Wondering - 2011-01-26 07:03

    @Piet - Good idea. With a solar electric panal, a battery and a few modifications one could run all your lights off solar electricity with the use of the right LED lights.

  • Markus - 2011-01-26 07:33

    @La Volpe Agree with that . Got a qoute from Solar heart before the increase of the subsidy. Was qouted 24000 ZAR installed after deduction of the rebatte. After they doubled the rebate i enquired again , and oh guess what 24000 ZAR installed after rebate deduction . Bought myself now a Geyserwhise , insulated my pipes and bought a local manufactured Evacuated tube 100L geyser (paid less then half for it whithout getting subsidy).

  • Car Muller - 2011-01-26 08:01

    I put timers on both geysers April 4 years ago. Been saving R450/ month since then. My next project is to import Solar. A solar geyser is imported for between R900 and R2000. I can get a plumber to do it. Costs for plumber is 4 hours R1000 (I use plumbers from the community, they are much cheaper. Total cost is less than R3500. The solar industry is a total rip off.

  • Llewellyn - 2011-01-26 10:05

    This is the truth.Great to see that they picked up on this immediately;Green power and natural dynamics also guilty.But wait when will they be charged with colusion ; most probaby never;What does SESSA has to say.

  • Richard - 2011-01-26 10:11

    Escom is just as full of it. Ordered a solar geyser,when it was installed 3 weeks later Escums spec's had changed so the geyser was now not compliant until it had been tested so no rebate

  • ono - 2011-01-26 10:15

    LED Globes. Far more effective.This is NOT true. They last a shorter time and cost more. Maybe less usage but not cost effective

  • @ono - 2011-01-26 10:51

    I got LED light installed last year Jan, and I have just break even now. I am starting saving from now on. Geyser consume more power. Going solar now is just a rip off. Unless you import directly and know how to service the geyser yourself.

  • Solar Industry - 2011-01-26 10:58

    Please people, look at what you buy and compare apples to apples.Look at companies that produce local products and ONLY if the quality is not good/comparable, then buy imported goods. Be clever and compare specs., performance and life expectancy And @ Car Muller, if you think the solar industry is a rip off, rather educate yourself on the technologies available with their pros and cons before making blanket statements.

  • jim - 2011-01-26 11:28

    La Volpe????Is making libelous and fabricated statements and seems unable to even spell Solahart correctly. I suggest that if anyone is really serious about this misinformation they should simply phone Eskom and speak to Therese for the facts.

  • Ecoecho - 2011-01-26 11:50

    I am a pensioner and cannot afford these horrendous prices for installing solar stuff much I as I would like to. Nor can I do a 'do-it-yourself' thing sadly. If you do not have the money it is expensive any way you look at it. I keep my geyser switched off unless I want to take a shower and then I put it on for about 2 hours. I cannot even get up in my loft to check the geyser temp or put geyser insulation on. What hope for such portions of the population even with the subsidy. I contacted two companies last year for an idea of pricing and got given a 'spiel' about it paying for itself, they would apply for the subsidy, would only cost me blah blah and so on, but I used to be in sales so know how these things work. I still think that Eskom could set up their own biz for this and that people should be able to buy and put it on their bill so the cost is spread. Credit is not easily obtained and if you do not have a job you cannot get credit anyway.

  • Jim Hickey - 2011-01-26 13:16

    Markus is a stranger to the truth. Probably sells an inferior solar water heater and using cheap selling tactics. Solahart is a reputable 29 year old company in South Africa and does not cheat the public as Markus suggests.

  • Jacques van den Berg - 2011-01-26 13:58

    La Volpe, seriously needs to check some facts before making scandalous comments. The insinuation that there has been a R12000 increase in the price of a Solahart is stupid an inaccurate in the extreme.

  • Jacques van den Berg - 2011-01-26 14:03

    It is simple to determine if solar water heaters are effective or not. Instead of speculating, workout the energy required to increase the temperature of the hot water you consume. Failing that you can go to the Eskom - or one of the many other available sources - and see what they believe the biggest consumer of household electricity is. Then work out what your electricity bill would be if you removed the cost of the energy required to heat your hot water. The math simply makes sense, and it beats senseless speculation.

  • Dirk - 2011-01-26 16:15

    Can someone tell me how long the cost of a Solar Geyser that paying for itself, and how long is the warranty of a Solar Geyser? To heat up a 150L Geyser that enough for 3 adult for a hot shower costs only R4 incl. VAT per day.

  • Wayne - 2011-01-26 17:50

    Perhaps deputy director Aphane should look at how government are filling their coffers with taxes, both import(15%) and VAT(14%) on his clean energy portfolio - renewable energy. Scrapping this would put top quality systems within the grasp of most consumers

  • goldie - 2011-01-27 13:31

    Hi Car. Where do you import from. Am considering installing but price is keeping me from it. Give us confused souls thye details. Like the idea.

  • Antonio - 2011-01-31 00:13

    You can convert your existing geyser for half the cost.(+/- 8k-10k) As long as the geyser is a decent condition you will get the same results as a solar geyser and depending on the condition and Eskom Criteria you might get a rebate too !!

  • Mark Heyes - 2011-03-06 11:49

    I have implemented a few basic energy saving products and have brought down my electricity from 50kw per day to 30kw. I was paying R 1400.00 Per month and now at R 800.00 now have also recorded my consumption and recorded it on my computer ready to email to eskom. I have also recoded what I Use before I conected up the energy saving products. so I can prove what I am saving. Should be payed via a rebate system should make every body do the same thing and this can be done in a very short time. At a minimal cost.

  • dries.bisschoff - 2012-07-27 09:10

    See what these things cost importers (link below). Maybe forming a group of people and importing your own stuff is cheaper than subsidised solar.

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