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IDC investing in green energy

tasol-articleTasol low-pressure solar geysers installed on dwellings in Cosmo City, a mixed-income housing development in Johannesburg.

The Tasol brand of solar water heaters has changed the lives of thousands of South Africans for the better.

Distributed exclusively by the Solar Academy of sub-Saharan Africa (Sassa), Tasol low-pressure solar geysers are SABS tested and approved. Each geyser has a 110-litre capacity and no electrical backup, instead warming the water it contains by irradiation, making it able to do its task even on a cloudy day.

The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) supports the project as a facilitator of bridging finance. Although consumers get back part of the cost of their solar water heater in the form of a rebate from Eskom, which the Tasol installer will claim on their behalf in lieu of the installation, the waiting period can be up eight weeks. Funding from the IDC fills the gap from post-installation until Eskom pays out.

"It's been rolled out successfully in the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan area, with significant support from the municipality and the Nelson Mandela Bay University," said Rafikh Ismail, the IDC's senior account manager for the Wood, Paper and Other Strategic Business Unit. The Nelson Mandela Bay University houses a test facility for the Green Technologies partly sponsored by Sassa.

Other beneficiaries include the Ekurhuleni, Bloemfontein, Mossel Bay and eThekwini municipal areas, to name a few. Over 44 000 households across South Africa are today enjoying free hot water, thanks to the Tasol project.

The project has not led to a drastic reduction in demand on the national grid, because residents of the targeted low-income communities were not using much power to begin with. This has led Eskom to revisit the amount of rebate that may be claimed for this particular initiative.

However, said Ismail, the socioeconomic impact is much greater. "For people in disadvantaged communities, even a small saving can make a big difference to the monthly bottom line, and in terms of job creation, about 500 people from local communities have gained a steady source of income, both directly and indirectly."

Besides the installers, a number of small businesses have sprung up around the project. These are mostly entrepreneurs who help residents to gather the paperwork needed before a solar geyser can be installed.

"I've seen them working almost as a production line," said Ismail, "with their runners darting all over the township, going from house to house to collect various essential documents."

In April 2011 the project was accredited as a clean development mechanism (CDM) initiative with the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change, which means that the project would now earn certified carbon credits which in turn are sold to Standard Bank PLC through an Emission Reduction Purchase Agreement.

"It's the first low-pressure solar heating project in the world to receive CDM registration," said Ismail, "which is quite an accomplishment." The IDC is proud to be associated with the project, supporting social upliftment, energy savings and encouraging environment-friendly green interventions.

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