Solar water heating guide for Brazil

23-11-2010, São Paulo, Brazil

A REEEP-funded project in Brazil has produced a Portuguese publication on solar water heating (SWH) systems, designed to raise awareness of the technology and its potential.

Entitled Introdução ao Sistema de Aquecimento Solar (Introduction to Solar Water Heating Systems), the book is aimed at building SWH capacity at key public agencies, in the private sector and academia. It has been produced in partnership with GTZ, Ekos Brazil Institute and Pro-Cobre, as part of an ongoing project in Brazil which aims to drastically increase the uptake of SWH systems in that country, linking the introduction of the technology, engineering and best practices in general and wherever possible  targeted to the Public Social Interest Housing (SIH) program.

Solar water heating has a particular potential in Brazil in that today, virtually every household in the country is equipped with an electric shower heater. This causes a very sharp demand peak in the early evening hours between 18:00 and 21:00; a peak driven entirely by private households. Shaving this load can replace the need for new generation capacity, and the technology is already available.

“Even though the technology makes a lot of sense, solar water heating faces barriers in Brazil,” notes Aurelio Souza, the project leader at USINAZUL, the implementing partner organisation. “Among other things, people just don’t know about it, and this lack of knowledge cuts through all levels, from the general public to bankers and developers, and that’s the issue that this book is trying to address. And apart from that, the fact that solar systems still cost more up front than electric or gas ones is also a major issue.”

The project he manages is aiming to achieve the installation of some 40,000 SWH systems by the end of this year, as part of the ongoing public SIH program, implemented by National Development Bank (CAIXA). This figure represents 10% of all SIH housing units built in 2010; in effect a pilot phase for further scaling up SWH penetration during 2011. Brazil’s Climate Change Plan targets a total of 15 million sq. meters of SWH collectors to be installed by 2015, which would correspond to 1,200 MW in avoided demand during peak hours.  The SWH systems sold in Brazil during 2009 totalled 800,000 square meters, bringing total installed capacity to 5.2 million sq. metres.

 “Looking forward, we can see this project supporting discussion and decisions at the Ministerial level, setting the stage for a national SWH plan. We’ve now investigated and identified the key technology, finance, policy, environmental and social barriers,” says Souza, “and with the SIH program we have a public finance mechanism that targets the low income population, integrating SWH into the building process and its financing. There is actually no lack of financial resources, but lack of access to them, which again is rooted in the lack of knowledge and, at a higher level the lack of clear public policies. But we are optimistic that we are on the right path.”

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