Photovoltaics in Africa on the Rise

With many of the continent’s countries paving the way for ambitious photovoltaics projects, a general spirit of optimism prevails in Africa’s budding solar industry. This is the conclusion of the Intersolar Solarize Africa Market Report 2020, prepared by the Becquerel Institute and the German Solar Association (BSW Solar) with support from Intersolar Europe.

Actual installation rates are far from reaching the available potential. With around 6.6 gigawatts (GW), the continent is home to only about one percent of the PV capacity installed worldwide as of the end of 2019. Yet electrification and renewable energies have been moving to the top of the political agenda.

Many African countries have projects in the pipeline, some on a significant scale, and the underlying political conditions are improving all the time. For instance, Algeria is planning to install photovoltaic systems with a combined capacity of 4 GW by 2024, while Egypt’s Benban currently retains the title of largest solar park in Africa with a total installed capacity of 1.5 GW. And Egypt is planning to install another 3.5 GW of solar energy capacity by 2027. Kenya had plans to set up commercial PV installations with a capacity of 500 megawatts (MW) as of 2019 and contracts were recently finalized to build a solar park of the same size in Mali.

The report presents four scenarios for the future of photovoltaics in Africa. The “policy-driven” and “business as usual” scenarios are based on the various countries’ current expansion goals and assume cumulative photovoltaic capacity of approximately 70 GW by 2030. The “solarize Africa accelerated” scenario presumes that photovoltaics in Africa will develop broadly in the same way as in other parts of the world, giving 170 GW of installed capacity by 2030. Some parts of the African markets are set to skip over the fossil age altogether, which is the central assumption of the fourth scenario – the “solarize Africa paradigm shift.” With a cumulative capacity of 600 GW by 2030, this scenario envisions Africa as a very important region on the future global PV market.

Since half a billion people in sub-Saharan Africa live without access to electricity, the potential of standalone local power grids, or microgrids, is immense. Photovoltaics as an option for safe and environmentally friendly water supply also holds great promise, both in the form of water desalination and treatment plants and solar powered pumps. This is important because a billion people in Africa still do not have access to clean drinking water.

The complete Intersolar Solarize Africa Market Report 2020 is available for free download. Join us at Intersolar from October 6–8, 2021, at Messe München for more information and discussions on the opportunities that photovoltaics affords Africa.