The high uptake for rebates on installed low-pressure solar water heating systems does not alleviate the pressure on the national electricity system because these units are installed in areas where there were no geysers before, says local company Palace Group.

The roll-out of solar water heater systems is an energy efficiency initiative meant to reduce demand on the national electricity system.

The government has a target to install 1-million solar water heating units in households and commercial buildings by 2014. According to Eskom, water heating accounts for 30%-50% of electricity consumed by an average household.

To ensure high uptake and counter the high up-front capital cost of solar systems, Eskom has a rebate system in which consumers who install the geysers receive a portion of the capital costs back

But Hennie Heyl of Palace Group said yesterday that the government should concentrate on rolling out high-pressure geysers – typically used in upmarkets homes – "as these will take pressure off the grid. Low-pressure geysers are installed in new low-cost areas where there were no geysers. We will reduce demand if we replace existing geysers. But, as it is, the uptake of low-pressure geysers is big. But they do not alleviate pressure on the grid."

Eskom has partnered with the government and municipalities in certain areas to provide free low- pressure solar water heaters to needy households.

Eskom senior GM Andrew Etzinger said yesterday that Eskom’s rebate scheme applied to households in areas that were electrified.

"So there are savings. The savings may not be as high as those of high- pressure units. But the reality is that the solar water heater programme is not designed to benefit only upmarket households. There is nothing stopping someone or an organisation from installing a solar water heater in an area that is not electrified. But they will not benefit from the rebate scheme," he said.

Eskom said yesterday that as of the end of June, claims for 80124 low-pressure units and 41999 high- pressure units had been processed.