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The use and outreach of solar thermal energy differs significantly across Latin American countries. Some countries play a global role, while others have only a limited installation of solar thermal applications like solar water heaters (SWH).
The biggest market in Latin America is Brazil with a capacity of more than 7.7 GWth in 2014 (third globally after China and Turkey). This is demonstrated through municipal building regulations, social housing programmes and the economic competitiveness of solar thermal are favourable in Brazil.
Mexico is rapidly installing new capacities (ranked 11th in 2013 globally) while SWH markets in other countries, such as: Colombia, Peru, El Salvador and Guatemala, are also picking -up speed – growing even without public incentives.
However, although solar water heaters have emerged as an option for institutional, commercial and service sectors, numbers for the residential sector are still low. An UNEP report from 2015 concludes that there are still significant barriers, such as limited trained personnel, a lack of awareness among the general public and academia, and insufficient standards and certification schemes to ensure quality of solar water heaters.
The following text shows experiences in various Latin American countries.
Case Study Peru
Although there is no specific regulatory framework in place, there are several instruments promoting SWH. For example, according to the Referential Plan (2009) for efficient energy use 2009-2018, 100,000 electric water heaters shall be substituted by solar water heaters.
Consequently, the solar thermal market in Peru (including both flat plate an evacuated tube collectors) has grown from 47 MWth in 2008 to 95 MWth in 2014. From all SWH installed, over 89% are the glazed flat plate collector type. Manufacturing, importing and distributing enterprises are mostly located in the southern part of the country, with Arequipa being the centre of the manufacturing. This is mirrored by the fact that over 90% of SWH installed are in Arequipa. SWH users are predominantly households (85%), followed by hotels (11%).
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Case Study Brazil
Brazil has a good supporting structure for solar thermal applications. The social housing programme “Minha Casa, Minja Vida” (My House, My Life) mandates the installation of SWH for every poor family. As of 2013, more than 183,000 SWH were installed. The residential sector is comprised of 60% of these installations with the social housing sector contributing 19% of this. The commercial sector and process heat have a smaller market share with 18% and 3% respectively.
Brazil has a National Solar Heating Department (DASOL) that aims to develop the market for SWH and coordinates the different stakeholders within the sector.
The National Institute of Metrology, Standardisation and Industrial Standards Quality has developed certifications for solar heating equipment since 1998. Since 2000, electricity bills include a 0.5% levy to fund SWH. Furthermore, there is the energy efficiency support programme, PROESCO, to provide financing for eligible projects and several subnational mandates and laws. E.g. since 2007, Sao Paulo mandates that at least 40% of all water heating needs should be generated from solar energy . Many municipalities also provide local tax incentives for solar water heating.
Case Study Mexico
The SWH market in Mexico grew by a substantial 23% in five years. There are domestic manufacturers, such as Módulo Solar, as well as foreign manufacturers active in the Mexican SWH market.
In the 25,000 solar thermal rooves programs, GTZ estimated an average system size of two square meters and costs of 8,900 Mexican Peso (USD 684). Experiences show that the payback period for a SWH system is 8.7 years. Costs, however, may vary.
Policies: La Comisión Nacional para el Uso Eficiente de la Energía (Conuee) coordinates all activities in the SWH sector and leads the solar water heating programme 2014-2018. In this programme technical and scientific capacities (installation and design) are increased and SWH are installed.
Standards: The CONUEE publishes standards, certification and testing methodologies for solar thermal systems. In order to receive financing from the Hipoteca Verde loan program, systems need to comply with the DTESTV (i.e. Dictamen Técnico de Energía Solar Térmica en Vivienda). A significant proportion of the current SWH systems in Mexico were financed through this loan scheme.
Testing: Mexico has four laboratory testing facilities that perform national certification tests based on DTESTV quality standard.
Association: National Association of Solar Energy
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