Monday, December 26, 2011

South Africans enjoy getting into hot water and saving money

DURBAN, South Africa (AlertNet) - At the recent U.N. climate conference in Durban, the South African government promoted its solar water heating programme as a way to cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. But for poor local families, the benefits are much more personal.

“I am very happy that I can bathe in warm water, like other people,” said Lhle Mbele, 15, whose house has been equipped with a free solar-powered water heater.

Lhle, his 14 siblings and his parents live in a 20 square metre (220 square foot) house in the Kingsburgh district of Durban. Lhle’s father is unemployed and his mother earns a living as a domestic worker in an elite area of the city. Hot water for washing is a luxury the family could not previously afford.

South Africa is responsible for 70 percent of Africa’s carbon emissions. As the host of the two-week U.N. climate talks, which ended on Dec. 11, the country has been eager to demonstrate its commitment to low-carbon technology.

The government has committed to producing 10,000 gigawatt hours of electricity through renewable energy by 2013, and solar power for heating water is slated to account for 23 percent of this.

Since December 2010, more than 75,000 solar water heaters have been installed by the Gauteng-based Solar Academy of Subsaharan Africa (SASSA), a private company working for the government, in neighbourhoods whose residents cannot normally afford hot water. The programme includes cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria. More