Solar thermal cooling - South Africa

South Africa is an energy-intensive economy with a high greenhouse gas (GHG) emission factor. More than 90% of the country’s electricity is still generated from coal. As a developing nation with a population estimated at around 54 million and an economy boasting significant heavy-industrial and extractive-industrial activities, the demand for energy from the building, industrial and mining sectors is substantial. As these sectors account for 93% of South Africa's demand for electricity, there is a significant energy savings potential. One of the biggest drivers for growth in this demand is cooling. Electricity consumption for cooling in South Africa was estimated to account for 24 TWh in 2009, corresponding to the emission of 23.5 million tCO2e.

A range of relevant technologies is envisaged to reduce demand for electricity for cooling, including solar absorption cooling and PV powered hardware. The distinct advantage of cooling based on solar energy is the high coincidence of solar irradiation and cooling demand in South Africa (i.e., the use of air conditioning is highest when sunlight is abundantly available). This correlation reduces the need for energy storage, as the cooling produced from solar energy is almost immediately used. While PV-powered 'traditional' airconditioning technology has become a more realistic option, solar thermal cooling technology, being a new technology, has also moved closer to market and has significant potential to scale up in South Africa. South Africa has an excellent solar irradiation, with up to 3000 kWh/m² annual radiation, and estimates from the International Energy Agency (IEA) show that solar thermal systems could meet about 70 – 80% of the region's low temperature heating and cooling demand (IEA, 2014).


This project focused on an innovative and promising technology and was largely exploratory, aiming to understand the status of the market for solar cooling technology in South Africa, and what can be done to further develop it. As such, activities and outputs of the ADMIRE project in South Africa were designed in parternship with the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) and divided into two stages: market analysis and the development of a technology-support mechanism. However, approval for the second stage was contingent upon the conclusions of the first stage.

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Joseph, J., (2012) Study of a Solar Assisted Air Conditioning System for South Africa. Durban: School of Engineering, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Solar Cooling Technologies in South Africa. Report by EScience Associates Ltd, submitted to SANEDI in May 2016
IEA (2014) Solar Heat Worldwide
21 JANUARY 2022