Causes of Failure of the South African Solar Water Heating Programme and the Forgone Social Benefits


  • Edzisani Ellen Netshiozwi PhD Candidate at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa



Solar Water Heaters, social benefits, renewable energy, climate change.


Access to energy is fundamental to meeting the economic and environmental needs of a country as well as the basic social needs for households. The study aimed at assessing the causes of failure of the South African Solar Water Heating Programme (SWHP) and the effect they had on the intended social, economic and environmental benefits. In 2009, the South African Government pronounced the national SWHP, which was meant to provide one million Solar Water Heaters (SWHs) by 2014 and four (4) million SWHs by 2030 across the country. The programme, however, experienced institutional, social and technical challenges which led to the non-achievement of the set targets. The study presents findings drawn from interviews conducted with households from two communities in the Gauteng Province (i.e. Soshanguve and Alexandra) and officials from the Department of Energy (DoE), the Gauteng Department of Economic Development (GDED) and two municipalities (i.e. City Power on behalf of the City of Johannesburg and the City of Tshwane). The study found that the programme failed due to the subsidisation of imported products, poor quality installations leading to non-functioning SWHs, lack of training and poor planning by the involved institutions as well as unreliable verification of the number and location of installed heaters as a result of lack of systematic reporting and independent verification. For the programme to contribute to the reduction of electricity load, reduction of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and improving the livelihood of the poor, there is a need for better ecological governance systems which include improved institutional arrangements, improved capacity for the technology and scaling up the roll-out of the SWHs as intended.

Author Biography

Edzisani Ellen Netshiozwi, PhD Candidate at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa

Edzisani Ellen Netshiozwi is a PhD candidate at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. The PhD thesis is titled ‘The role of Ecological Governance on the Success and Sustainability of Solar Energy Initiatives”. 


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