Eskom effected a saving of 250 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year with the installation of more than 262 000 solar water heaters across the country, the parastatal said yesterday.

Eskom is one of the agents installing solar water heaters through an initiative by the Department of Energy. It aims to have a million of these heaters installed by 2014.

The solar geyser programme is funded through the fiscus and rebates. Eskom is responsible for managing the rebates for geyser installations.

Eskom spokeswoman Hilary Joffe said there had also been an associated reduction of 46MW in demand during evening peak times in the week.

The solar geyser rebates range from R2 879 for small, low pressure heaters to R8 964 for 250- to 300-litre high pressure systems. Eskom said the minister of finance had allocated R4.7 billion for the programme over the next three years, ending in March 2015.

In a written response to Parliament, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said seven municipalities would have solar water heater installations funded by the fiscus. These included the City of Tshwane and Emfuleni in Gauteng; Umsobomvu and Sol Plaatje in the Northern Cape; Naledi and Maluti-A-Phofung in the Free State; and Musina in Limpopo.

The Department of Energy said commercial banks, insurance companies, and benevolent donors were also driving solar water heater initiatives in various parts of the country.

But the upfront capital costs of these systems and limited funding created barriers to the increased uptake.

The department has since implemented a standard offer incentive scheme which would fund all energy efficiency and demand side management interventions. Solar heating is one of the technologies available for this intervention.

Peters said while her department was happy that it was on track with the programme, the majority of these systems – particularly the low pressure heaters that were installed in the state-subsidised low-cost housing and medium-income residential sectors – were being imported.

In future, only those suppliers who committed to localise their products would be able to participate in the government-funded subsidy programme. The minister said a new approach to support only those manufacturers who brought their factories to South Africa would soon be announced.