Climate change is already at the African continent’s doorstep, with accelerated desertification, change of agricultural conditions and loss of habitat. There is a pressing need to tackle the rising temperatures, poverty rates and the lack of access to energy sources particularly in the sub-Saharan zone. We strongly believe that PV can play a significant role to overcome these challenges.
The current population in Africa reaches approximately 1.3 billion people, of which only 62% have access to electricity. The energy consumption per capita is amongst the lowest globally, with large disparities between the economically developed cities and rural areas. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 212 million people gained access to electricity from 2000 to 2015 in Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the recent progress, the continent struggles to keep up with the growing population and, hence, meeting the energy demand. Indeed, in a special report on Energy access, the IEA expects further electrification in Africa: the share of the population without access to electricity would fall to 36% in 2030. However, the total amount of people without access would continue to increase.
The continent can benefit from recent global progress and cost reductions in renewable power generation technologies, to leapfrog fossil fuel-based systems and move directly to a renewable-based system. The decreasing prices for solar PV and the high irradiation on the African continent demonstrate the case to develop renewable energies (RE) and solar PV. African countries are currently raising their commitments to RE with important innovations in tariffs, increased use of independent power producers (IPPs) and improving their legislations to stimulate renewable energy, decentralized off-grid solutions such as mini-grids and solar home systems.
Despite significant progress, technical and financial barriers are holding back the expansion of renewables. The African energy sector suffers from a number of structural problems, such as the presence of fossil-fuel subsidies, weak financial strength of utilities, outdated and unstable grids and an unstable policy environment, which all translate into a high level of risks for investors in the sector and makes it difficult for potential investors to access needed infrastructure finances. This is even more relevant for investments in solar PV installations as these are characterized by higher upfront costs than fossil fuel power plants.
Given the challenges cited above, most of the scenarios developed to predict the long-term energy trends in Africa are quite conservative when it comes to integrating renewable energy sources. Even more ambitious renewable energy scenarios are often not in line with the objective of 100% renewable energy towards 2050 and therefore not consistent with the Paris climate goals (examples: IEA Energy Outlook, IRENA Prospect for the African Power Sector, Mac Kinsey Energy 2050).
Solarpreneurs is an African initiative dedicated to providing solar PV power generation solutions to all businesses in Africa!
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