Offgrid solar power could help lower the energy costs for 138-million households in Africa that live on less than $2.50 a day and spend about $10-billion a year on energy-related products, including charcoal, candles and kerosene, South African Solar Photovoltaic Committee chairperson Jo Dean highlighted on Tuesday.
Addressing delegates at the Power & Electricity World Africa 2017 conference, taking place over two days in Johannesburg, she said a “vibrant offgrid solar industry” is poised to take off in Africa.
She pointed to data sourced from the World Bank and the International Renewable Energy Agency that there was potential to develop up to 1 100 GW of solar capacity in Africa.
Dean stated that in many African countries, there is a lack of funding, institutional will or technical skill to develop the energy sector.
She noted that South Africa was paving the way for renewables in Africa, with the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) having encouraged other African countries to also take steps in implementing utility scale photovoltaic plants.
Meanwhile, with the uncertainty over the continuum of the REIPPPP, there is potential for new markets and opportunities to be found in South Africa’s commercial and industrial sectors.
“During 2016, 100 MW of small-scale power plants were installed across South Africa, representing a 100% increase on the 2015 amount. One estimate is that as much as 15 GW of capacity could be installed through private power purchase agreements across South Africa within the next five to ten years,” she said.
Dean noted that many large industrial-sized businesses are likely to develop their own projects while “the market for residential-scale installations could continue growing for longer.”
She noted, however, that there are some significant challenges that will have to be addressed. Although the growth rate might be considered impressive, the market remains small.
Meanwhile, Dean noted that, to meet rapidly growing energy demand on the continent, the energy mix would gradually progress towards greater use of offgrid household systems, minigrids and embedded generation.
“It will also lead to the emergence of more flexible, hybrid national energy systems that link grids to offgrid generation,” she said.