BrightFuture brings solar heat to SA homes

Unilever is installing solar-powered water heaters to 2,000 low-income homes in Nazareth Island, Durban, allowing families access to affordable hot water.

Affordable hot water

Solar panels and wind turbines

The teams behind Unilever’s BrightFuture brand in Durban, South Africa, are leading a programme to fit solar water heaters at homes in a local low-income community. In partnership with Inti Solar, manufacturers of solar water heating and lighting systems, the BrightFuture Solar initiative is installing low running cost domestic water heaters in a bid to reduce energy consumption, promote renewable energy and provide a reliable source of hot water for households. And the move makes business sense too.

Providing more solar heaters

According to Chris Loxley, from Unilever Research & Development and part of the team responsible for the initiative, “This is of interest to us because we sell products that rely on heating water and because the majority of our carbon footprint comes from the use of our products rather than in their manufacture.”

Every heater installed equates to a saving on carbon-based fuels or electricity. In South Africa, this equates to about 1.2 tonnes of carbon emissions per home per year. This can be traded as ‘carbon credits’.

Carbon credits are tradable certificates representing the right to emit a tonne of carbon. Under a mechanism established as part of the Kyoto Protocol, these credits can be traded privately, through a broker or on spot markets like any stock. They are used to ‘offset’ emissions that cannot currently be avoided by helping to fund a reduction in emissions somewhere else.

Because we are involved in facilitating the installation of the BrightFuture Solar water heaters, we get a 50% share of the carbon credit generated. This means that, by year two or three, we will begin to see a significant return on our investment, which can be reinvested to provide further solar heaters.

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