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Africa not making the most of its solar energy potential

28th March 2017

By: Anine Kilian

Contributing Editor Online

     

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Most African governments are not moving fast enough to progress the uptake of solar energy, with the renewable energy accounting for less than 1% of energy consumed on the continent, Gigawatt Global CEO Welden Turner said on Tuesday.

Speaking at Power & Electricity World Africa 2017, in Johannesburg, he noted that 50% of Africa’s energy mix constituted biofuels and waste, followed by coal, diesel and natural gas.

“The use of renewable energy, specifically solar energy, is minimal on the continent owing to market access,” he said.

He added that the African market was also a relatively new market for utility-scale developers.

“It’s difficult in Africa; there’s a higher rate of corruption and instability. The return on investment has to be much higher in Africa [to make investment worthwhile] for investors and developers,” he stated.

Turner pointed out that South African ranked tenth among the top 20 solar energy producers globally, the only African country to feature on the list.

“South Africa accounts for 99% of the solar energy that has gone into commercial operation to date and currently produces 1.3 GW of solar energy,” he said.

Turner expects the use of renewables on the continent to grow over time.

“The potential for African consumption is huge.”

Urbanisation is growing in Africa and will continue to drive higher electricity demand.

Turner noted that the price of solar energy had vastly declined over the past five to eight years.

“Soon, it will become even cheaper than coal. Because plants are getting bigger, pricing has come down. The components for the manufacturing of solar panels are also decreasing,” he said.

Turner added that the demand for installed solar capacity was growing “and we want to see the African component increase.”

He noted that cheap solar energy storage would be a “game changer” on the African continent.

“The problem is that there are a number of projects that have looked in to storage, but it is impossible to fund from a price stand point. The technology is there, I think we will see storage in more offgrid projects, where prices will be more reasonable,” Turner said.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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