Underperforming Africa Holds out Huge Solar Opportunities, says AFSIA Outlook 2023

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The 2023 annual solar outlook report from the African Solar Industry Association (AFSIA) points to huge continent-wide opportunities even though Africa is still underperforming in realising the full power of solar.

The report was released yesterday (January 18) at the World Future Energy Summit – the leading international event accelerating sustainability and the global transition to clean energy – running at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre in the UAE capital for which AFSIA is an official partner.

The report says major opportunities lie in four key segments – commercial and industrial (C&I), green hydrogen product, solar powered mobility, and the productive use of energy to realise the Continent’s potential.

The C&I segment, which accounted for 28 per cent of newly installed capacity in 2022 representing a growth of around two-thirds on 2021 capacity, is currently led by South Africa. AFSIA says C&I growth will continue across the continent with more than 5 GW of projects under development, translating to almost half of Africa’s total installed capacity.

The report singles out green energy as a high potential sector with Africa’s stellar solar irradiation providing some of the best criteria for green hydrogen production which currently represents five times the Continent’s total installed solar capacity.

Solar powered mobility has also been identified as a key opportunity area with the “the exponential growth of electric mobility across the continent.” Electric motorbikes are now providing lower cost transport across the continent, according to the report, leading to a boom in taxi moto drivers switching to electric alternatives which, in turn, is fuelling increased solar demand.

The new solar segment of Productive Use of Energy (PUE), supported by solar home systems and mini-grids, is included in AFSIA’s “opportunities” prognosis but the report points to a growing clamour for more to be done to empower people with revenue-generating solutions.

A major positive report note is the growing spread of solar adoption across the continent, which AFSIA says is no longer limited to the hot spots of South Africa, Morocco, and Egypt. A total of 49 African countries are now said to be considering at least 1 MW of solar installations and 29 on more than 100 MW.

The AFSIA report, which includes a country-by-country breakdown of installed capacity and an analysis of the continent’s solar manufacturing potential, was released by the Association’s CEO John Van Zuylen during the Solar Expo and Clean Energy Forum – the Middle East and North Africa’s leading solar marketplace and one of the Summit’s six specialised vertical events.

“Africa is now home to more than 10 GW of identified solar projects and this is another symbolic milestone for the continent,” said van Zuylen.

The Solar Expo & Clean Forum also heard an update of Nigeria’s energy transition from the country’s Minister of Power, His Excellency Abubaker D. Aliyu.

“The Forum has unveiled some great news for the people of Africa who increasingly have access to clean and reliable power, and for the industry as a whole which is expanding its continental footprint,” commented Leen Alsebai, Head of World Future Energy Summit, and General Manager of Summit organiser RX Middle East. “This is also a very positive industry trend, which has the potential to deliver economies of scale through network effects and inspire local companies and technicians to further expand solar businesses, growing employment opportunities.”

The world’s solar industry champions and pioneers were at the Forum meeting with leading engineering companies, technology providers, financiers, energy buyers, utility providers and government policy makers to navigate a growth pathway for the global sector.

The Forum featured a speaker and panellist line up of over 50 industry experts from across Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, UK, Africa, and Asia.

Together they explored the entire solar eco-system and the technologies and policies needed to leverage its potential to meet national targets, the solar sector’s role in the circular economy, how the industry could maximise asset profitability and performance and boost efficiency through automation.

The World Future Energy Summit is hosted by Masdar and is part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, a global platform for accelerating the world’s sustainable development. The event is also, for the first time ever, held in partnership with ENOWA.

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