Solar Hot Water System Campaign in the Netherlands

by the CADDET Dutch National Team

Introduction

Annual sales of solar hot water systems in the Netherlands amounted to only a few hundred before 1990. Then a national programme was initiated with the aim of reducing costs and increasing sales. This article outlines the success of the promotional campaign led by Novem in partnership with a number of market players to promote solar systems, particularly solar domestic hot water systems. The motto of their campaign is "Switch to the sun for a better environment"; its aim is to install 300,000 solar hot water systems by the year 2010.

The Campaign

In 1990, solar domestic water-heating systems had become a good prospect in the Netherlands. However, low sales and the relatively high cost had impeded the development of a large market. A subsidy scheme, set up in 1988, did not succeed in raising sales to a satisfactory level. Manufacturers will only consider the large investments needed for large-scale production techniques if there is a sufficient market for the product. It was to break this vicious circle that the campaign was set up.
 The marketing and communications campaign aims at innovators, and the technically and environmentally aware. The media has raised public awareness of solar hot water systems, which have been introduced by utilities, installers, manufacturers and local government. Private individuals are also targeted with opportunities to rent solar hot water systems from utility companies or housing corporations or to buy them through installers.

Four Years On

After four years of the campaign, more than 13,000 Dutch roofs have an "energy saving skylight". In 1995, 34 of the 40 Dutch power companies were renting, selling, leasing and promoting solar hot water systems.
 There are about 12 companies in the Netherlands manufacturing or importing systems, and competition from foreign suppliers is driving the prices down. These companies meet regularly to discuss activities. In addition, 300 installers have attended training programmes. The media campaign has prompted several thousand requests for information, which are handled by the branch association of solar industries, Holland Solar. The campaign has also stimulated many enquiries to the installers which, hopefully, will turn into sales. A multi-year plan has been formulated which records the commitments of all the participants in the campaign and sets realistic goals towards the overall objective of 300,000 systems by the year 2010.
 Most of the solar hot water systems currently installed in the Netherlands were installed in construction projects. The price reductions achieved in solar systems (about 20%) have been mainly due to the scale of housing construction projects. Three quarters of the solar hot water systems installed currently go to this market sector. It appears that project developers now opt for solar energy in new construction more than they used to. Recently- published government plans for extra new housing will further stimulate sales for housing construction projects. The rest of the systems currently operating were installed in existing dwellings through utilities' installers or housing corporations. While construction projects seem to provide the main market, there is also potential for using solar energy for collective hot water for existing and multi-storey buildings.

Rising sales

There is still a long way to go in promoting solar domestic hot water systems in the Netherlands. Prices for individual consumers have not yet decreased to a satisfactory level, and the abundance of suppliers is putting pressure on the market. Interest among central heating suppliers, which could speed up development of new types of system, was lacking, but recently a large central heating supplier announced that they would include solar domestic hot water systems in their product range. This is the second supplier to adopt these systems, so this might be a breakthrough.
 On a positive note, annual sales of solar hot water systems in the Netherlands are rising gradually. After a slow start, the price has dropped, particularly for large housing construction projects. It is expected that sales will rise rapidly after 1997, when cheaper types such as integrated solar hot water systems will be sold on a wide scale in the Netherlands and abroad. International sales of solar hot water systems are growing slowly, but available market information is limited. It appears that government support is essential to stimulate the introduction of solar heating around the world, and objective information is needed which is tailored to the needs of the customer.
 Competitive price and quality make the export of Dutch products feasible. Notably other countries consider the Dutch power companies' approach to be unique. In 1993, a Dutch power company, NUON, was given a Canadian award for its commitment to promoting the use of solar hot water systems.

Conclusion

The growth of the multi-year plan is substantial and if all parties make a serious effort there will be no stopping the rise of solar hot water systems. From 1998, it is expected that this technology will grow, without subsidy, into a product that no house-builder or owner will be able to do without. This growth plan is laid down in a long-term agreement, signed in 1994, between several utilities, the manufacturers and their branch associations, Novem and the Ministry of Economic Affairs.


For more information contact the CADDET Dutch National Team in Sittard.

The CADDET Renewable Energy Newsletter is a quarterly magazine published by the CADDET Centre for Renewable Energy at ETSU, UK.

The articles published in the Newsletter reflect the opinions of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the official view of CADDET.

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