The role of solar energy in Africa's energy crisis

While many African countries have trouble to keep up with the demand for energy, solar power has the chance to close these gaps and to help become independent from coal.

According to Dr. Jarrad Wright, Principal Researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the South African electricity crisis may be solved through utility-scale or distributed investments in solar and other sustainable technologies. By diversifying the sources of energy, a sufficient power system and extensive access to stable electricity would be in reach.

Wright points out that this strategy could be helpful for other African regions as well. Arguments in favor of solar PV are the lead-time for investment, significant technology cost reductions, favorable financing, and the potential to scale up and down.

He adds that another necessary factor is the introduction of policies and regulations which enact the actual implementation of projects involving sustainable energy sourcing. In May of last year, additions to the Electricity Regulations Act on New Generation Capacity were revealed and introduced the framework of action for municipalities with goof financial standing. Nevertheless, these amendments still require further clarifications for major cities like Cape Town, as well as members of the solar industry.

The call for self-reliant production or procurement of electricity by the City of Cape Town and others is loud. In regards to this issue, President Cyril Ramaphosa promised the fast-tracking of these projects during one of his recent address on his Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan – results can already be seen.

And the time is just right for large-scale solar PV installations. According to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2020, the leading solar power schemes have reached all-time-low prices. Responsible for the cost reduction in the last 20 years are the decline of technology cost, improvements in efficiency and governmental enablers through policies and legislation in order to counteract climate change.

February 10th 2021

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