Shandong-based Himin Solar Energy Group, the country's largest manufacturer of solar water heaters, sees huge potential for solar energy products as the massive housing market provides a platform for the growing shift towards renewable energy. 'The global financial crisis provides a golden opportunity for us to promote solar energy products because cost-saving has become an important issue for enterprises,' chairman Huang Ming said. He added that the savings would definitely be more than the installation cost in the long term, saying for example that a hotel could save more than 3 million yuan (HK$3.4 million) over four years if it installed a 3 million yuan worth of solar water heater. Himin also produces solar photoelectric and thermal products, solar vacuum collector tubes, and solar energy building and energy-saving glass. 'Colour television and air-conditioners have become popular over the past two decades, why can't solar energy products?' Mr Huang said. He also expected demand for solar energy products would rise along with the housing upgrade in rural areas and as people became more aware of environmental protection. Beijing aims to raise its reliance on renewable energy, including solar power, to account for 10 per cent of total energy consumption by next year and 15 per cent by 2020. It was estimated that the country would need up to 150 million square metres of solar collectors by next year, a National Development and Reform Committee report said. The A-share listing candidate had already invited Goldman Sachs and Chinese investor CDH Ventures as shareholders last month. The two firms had invested about US$100 million in total to help future development. The company has also set up a property unit to promote the usage of solar energy products in residential projects. The property division is now mainly responsible for the China Solar Valley project in Dezhou, Shandong province, which consists of residential buildings, hotel and convention facilities. The pilot project is intended to demonstrate how solar energy products can be integrated into every household. Utopia Garden, covering 133,333 square metres with 1,900 residential units in Solar Valley, would be launched for sale this year and priced at more than 3,000 yuan per square metre, the most expensive in the city. The development is scheduled for completion by 2015. 'We will introduce the products from the top to low-end markets with hopes that the lower class can enjoy the products at cheaper prices when they become more popular in the future,' Mr Huang said.