By Martin Vedris
SYDNEY: Rheem Australia, a leading producer of electric, solar and gas water heaters, has called for more time to meet proposed government regulatory changes to water heaters, and to ensure the viability of Australian industry.
Rheem Australia has been focussed on the development and acceptance of sustainable and renewable water heating solutions through its Rheem, Solahart and Edwards brands. However, with the hot topic of climate change becoming more politicised, recent proposals at a state, federal and Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO) level now collectively seek to fast-track the restriction of the sale and installation of electric and three-star gas water heaters. These products represent 75 per cent of the current Australian water heater manufacturing base.
“As a consequence we would need to significantly transform our manufacturing business, and that’s not something that can be done overnight,” explained Rheem Australia’s CEO, Matt Sexton.
“What we need is an orderly and considered transition that is consistent between the state and federal governments. Otherwise the maintenance of the Australian water heater manufacturing industry, which employs nearly 2000 people, will be put under severe threat.”
According to Rheem, the government proposal will have a knock-on effect for the Australian solar thermal industry.
“Solar hot water systems still need tanks — a strong local water heater manufacturing industry is crucial for our solar future and, indeed, other renewable energy solutions,” Sexton advised.
Sexton added that mandating a single solution across the whole of Australia is simply not practical given the cost effective access to alternative forms of energy.
“This is highlighted by the issue of readily replacing electric water heaters in non gas reticulated areas. Consumers will be forced to choose between the high initial cost of a solar system, the high running cost associated with an LPG installation, and the sometimes high cost of time and money to connect a natural gas solution,” he said.
“Generally a water heating system is an unplanned and urgent purchase, so a considerably more expensive alternative will be financially hard for many people.”
Sexton suggests that time is also needed for related industries, such as installers, to catch up.
“Currently there is a lack of solar installation capability throughout Australia. More training is needed for plumbers to learn what’s required in installing solar systems,” Sexton revealed.
Sexton also points out that electric water heaters themselves are not the problem, he says the form of power generation is the real issue.
“Low emission outcomes can be achieved without banning electric water heaters,” Sexton said.
“For example, an electric water heater powered by GreenPower produces zero CO² emissions. Most consumers can transfer their electric water heater power supply for as little as $2 to $3 a week. And there is no gas equivalent to GreenPower.
“Rheem supports a fast but sensible progression to renewable energy solutions for water heaters, but this does not need to be at the expense of Australian manufacturing and thousands of jobs.”
Rheem, which has its headquarters and manufacturing operations in the Sydney suburb of Rydalmere, as well as manufacturing sites in Perth and Melbourne and operations in all states. The company’s brands include Rheem, Solahart, Edwards, Vulcan, Raypak, Paloma, Everhot and Accent Air.