SolarPower Europe releases Africa edition of O&M Best Practice Guidelines

Today SolarPower Europe launched the Africa edition of the Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Best Practice Guidelines developed in cooperation with GET.invest, a European programme which mobilises investments in decentralized renewable energy, supported by the European Union, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Austria.   The report was launched at the 6th Energy Access Investment Forum organised by the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE) and supported by GET.invest. Building on Version 4.0 of SolarPower Europe’s O&M Best Practice Guidelines, this edition is adapted to the Sub-Saharan African context. It is a joint effort with ten African solar and renewable energy industry associations, from Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Many Sub-Saharan African markets have already added the first tens and, in some cases, hundreds of MWs of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity, with significant growth expected in the coming years. As markets develop, concerns increase around the long-term reliability and performance of solar assets, as they strongly affect project bankability and return on investments. As power plants age, the industry has realised that proper “health care” is indispensable for power plants to meet performance expectations. Today, O&M has become a standalone segment within the solar industry, with an increasing number of solar companies in Africa providing specialised services. Yet there are still significant quality discrepancies between services from different providers.

This document is aimed at O&M service providers, as well as other parties involved in the operation of solar power plants, such as owners and investors, lenders, technical advisors and data-related service providers. It will help establish common standards and increase transparency in the sector. It is also worth noting that solar O&M is especially value intensive, as a segment that supports many local jobs, and drives important solar innovations, notably in the field of digitalisation.

In the Africa edition, all chapters of the original document have been thoroughly reviewed and revised with a focus on unique aspects of Sub-Saharan Africa. A key objective was to make sure that this edition will also be useful for operators of small and medium-size C&I installations. For this, the requirements for smaller installations were tweaked where necessary, such as for simplified Documentation Management Systems or Monitoring Tools. Water scarcity is also taking into account as an O&M issue in many regions of Africa. This has certain repercussions for operators’ environmental and social responsibilities, and the guide encourages operators to reduce the amount of water used for module cleaning through various innovations. Finally, a new chapter is introduced on “O&M for standalone solar systems with storage”, a chapter to assist in the application of best practices to off-grid systems. These are only some examples from the many updates implemented in order to make these Guidelines as useful as possible for solar businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa.

GET.invest Team Leader Michael Franz said: “On behalf of our donors, we are happy to support this product of collaboration between SolarPower Europe and leading African industry associations. The O&M guidelines will help establish common standards and increase transparency in the market, while driving solar innovation and supporting job creation.”

Jens Jæger, Policy & Business Development Manager, Alliance for Rural Electrification added: “Operations and maintenance of decentralised renewable energy systems is vital to the long-term sustainability and business case of projects and hence to the achievement of SDG-7. This is particularly the case for systems in remote areas of emerging markets, which may be hard to reach for operators and may present challenging conditions, such as heavy rainfall and extreme temperatures. As the global industry association representing the decentralised renewable energy sector in emerging markets, ARE is happy to partner with SolarPower Europe on this critical topic and host the O&M session at the 6th ARE Energy Access Investment Forum on 17-19 March 2021.”

Máté Heisz, Director of Global Affairs at SolarPower Europe added: “Working with the African-European O&M Task Force over the past 6 months was a very exciting exercise over the past six months. This work brought together more than 30 experts from Africa and Europe and enabled a detailed technical exchange and cooperation on solar O&M. On behalf of SolarPower Europe, I thank all contributors for their valuable participation in this important work. The Africa edition of the O&M Best Practice Guidelines is now available online for free, and I encourage all stakeholders involved in solar O&M in Africa to consider using it in their daily operations.”

Download the report here.

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