National Solar Water Heating Programme (NSWHP)

Background information

Graphic: Solar Water Heating Programme Conceptual Framework

Why solar water heating?

Solar water heating has economic and environmental benefits.

Water heating accounts for a third to half of the energy consumption in an average household. In South Africa, this consumption derives mainly from electricity, as it is the most common energy-carrier employed. Removing this expenditure could lead to significant improvements in the disposable incomes of the lower-income sector. Research models indicate that the introduction of solar water heating can ameliorate the situation substantially. Switching from electrical to solar water heating can therefore have significant economic and environmental benefits.

What is the National Solar Water Heating Programme and what has happened thus far?

From 2010-2014, Eskom installed 400,000 solar water heating systems. Nonetheless, not all initial programme goals were achieved.

The National Solar Water Heating Programme (NSWH) was officially launched in 2010. Eskom was mandated to install 1 million systems under a conditional grant with the objectives to (i) reduce electricity demand and green house gas emissions; (ii) protect poor families from electricity tariff increases; and (iii) support and encourage the local manufacturing industry and create employment.

During the first years of its existence, not all programme objectives were met, despite  400,000 systems having been installed in residential dwellings.

Major obstacles were:

  • Imported products dominating installations
  • Installations done in poor quality due to lack of training of technicians
  • Electricity reduction not being achieved as programme focus was on low electricity consumption areas
  • Lack of maintenance of systems resulting in users reverting back to electric systems.

What are the objectives of the National Solar Water Heating Programme roll out?

The DoE reconceptualised the programme: the focus now is on socio-economic, energy and industrialisation aspects.

Eskom’s mandate to implement the NSWH Programme has been terminated. Under the custodianship of the Department of Energy (DoE), the South African government remains resolute to roll out a revived NSWHP.

The new target is 1.75 million SWH installations by 2020, 70% of which are to be manufactured locally. Energy consumption is herewith intended to be reduced by about 55 GWh per month, which potentially can reduce the use of expensive diesel by up to 12% every month.

The reconceptualised programme is aimed at:

  • Socio-economic aspects, which include:

    • Access to hot water

    • Subsidised new installations in low income households

  • Energy load reduction, which can happen in two scenarios:

    • Pro-active: existing functional electrical geysers are replaced with solar geysers (with support of insurance industry and banks)

    • Re-active: “faulty/failed” geysers are replaced with solar geysers (under insurance claims)

  • Contributing further to industrialisation :

    • Job creation (through focused installation & maintenance training)

    • Sustainability (i.e. life cycle management of the SWH installation creates operations & maintenance jobs)

To battle one of the shortcomings of the previous programme, namely the poor quality of installations, occupational (part) qualifications to train SWH installers will be a high-priority.

How does the NSWHP function?

The NSWHP establishes partnerships with a large variety of relevant public and private stakeholders.

It is crucial to establish a robust governance framework and effective programme management to make the NSWHP successful. The envisaged framework includes:

  • Partnerships across relevant national government departments, e.g. Department of Labour, Department of Higher Education & Training, Department of Trade & Industry, and many more

  • Partnerships with government institutions, e.g. SABS on manufacturing accreditation, local content and product verification

  • Partnerships with private sector, e.g. with manufacturers of SWHs; with SAIA and banks to establish a financing relationship.


The following graphic shows how the Department of Energy oversees all NSWH programme aspects from supply to installation. Through a variety of agreements (e.g. supply agreement, service level agreement, installation agreement), all steps are well defined.

Quality is an important aspect of the NSWH programme. The graphic explains how the quality aspect is embedded in all steps: (i) SWH systems are assured by SABS; (ii) training providers are accredited and train both installers as well as suppliers; (iii) an independent verification assures quality of the installation and throughout its life cycle.

The NSWH programme is supported by the German Technical Cooperation (e.g. for training aspects through the S4GJ Programme).

german cooperation - giz -