On-Site Solar and Sustainable Electrification in Sub-Saharan Africa

This week SolarPower Europe held a webinar about On-site Solar and sustainable electrification in Sub-Saharan Africa, in collaboration with GET.invest – a European programme supported by the European Union, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria. This webinar gathered European and African experts of on-site solar to explore existing on-site solar opportunities. The webinar included a presentation introducing the main trends, challenges, and opportunities for on-site solar in sub-Saharan Africa. This was followed by an open discussion, focusing on the technical and business innovations that are bringing sustainable electricity to the region.

Some background on this topic:  On-site solar has the potential to contribute to increasing access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy (UN Sustainable Development Goal 7) for businesses and citizens across sub-Saharan Africa. The commercial and industrial (C&I) rooftop market segment has shown strong growth in recent years, with developers seeking to circumvent administrative barriers and grid issues associated with large-scale solar projects. There is also a strong market incentive for C&I customers to develop on-site solar projects as they can contribute to their competitiveness. Recent studies have shown that on-site solar is cheaper than electricity tariffs paid by C&I clients in seven markets in sub-Saharan Africa . Furthermore, on-site solar installations coupled with storage can also provide electricity more reliably than the grid in several markets. 

In addition to this, cost reductions and novel business models have made solar accessible for many citizens in sub-Saharan Africa where, for example in 2018, only 48% of the population had access to electricity. Since 2015, Pay-as-You-Go (PAYG) business models that allow first-time African consumers to buy solar systems on a rent-to-own basis have connected 5 million households in Africa to off-grid power.

The webinar started with a presentation by Ali Yasir, Programme Officer – Decentralised Renewable Energy, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The presentation focused on the role of decentralised renewables in delivering the wider development agenda, homing in on the Energy-Health nexus and the role of decentralized renewables in humanitarian settings. 

In this context, Ali Yasir presented two case studies: Firstly, the Sector assessment for the electrification of primary health care facilities in Burkina Faso. This project evaluated the energy needs across the rural medical value chain, considering appliance use, energy efficiency and building design through an “ecosystem approach”. Secondly, the presentation addressed the IRENA support to the UNHCR by assessing current and expected future energy usage in selected refugee camps and identifying renewable solutions for a more reliable and affordable energy supply. Read more details on this here.

Following this presentation, Javier Ortiz de ZuñigaTechnical Advisor, GET.invest, introduced the activities of the GET.invest Finance Catalyst. The Finance Catalyst supports projects and companies by linking them with public and private financiers.  Two of the projects and companies successfully supported were presented during the webinar: a captive solar PV and storage project powering the irrigation of alfafa fields in Sudan and a developer providing tailored PAYG solar kits to rural communities in Cameroon. These two presentations were followed by a fruitful panel discussion, which you can re-watch here.  

To close the panel discussion, Rolake Rosiji, Pay-as-You-Go solar expert, of the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria said: “The word to describe solar in this context is: access.  It means reaching people in peri-urban or urban areas who would otherwise not see electricity. It means access to credit, enabling low-in-come customers to afford the products through loans, especially for productive loans, discussed in the webinar. Lastly, it means access to finance for companies. These companies need to take solar as a long-term goal to really scale up and reach the areas who are lacking electricity and need it.“

We want to thank the panelists, including Laetitia Dubois, Business Developer Africa, AKUO ; Rupesh Hindocha, Group CEO, Premier Solar and Caroline Nijland, GET.invest Finance Catalyst Advisor, as well as all participants for joining the webinar. Thank you also to Miguel Herrero Cangas for moderating the webinar. 

Photo: (C) Premier Solar Group

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