SolarPower Summit Recap: Day 0

Friday, 7 May 2021, marks the kick-off of our SolarPower Summit. Day 0 is a side event, supported by GET.invest, focusing on solar business opportunities in emerging markets. In case you missed it, here is a recap, with sessions available to rewatch at the conclusion of the event. 

The day began with a round of welcome speeches, highlighting the new instruments to support renewable energy investments in emerging markets. SolarPower Europe, together with GET.invest – the European program supported by the European Union, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria – invited government and industry representatives from Europe and Africa, including notable speakers such as Stefano Signore, Head of Climate Change and Sustainable Energy; Nuclear Safety, at the European Commission, and Atef Marzouk, Acting Director Infrastructure and Energy, Africa Union Commission and we encourage you to rewatch these addresses on our platform. The key ideas included the vast solar potential and natural resources available in Africa. Speakers noted the finances that are available, from motivated and substantial investment bodies, and the need to match these finances with bankable projects, and develop risk management activities, so solar can be scaled up substantially and quickly. 

Aurélie Beauvais, Deputy CEO and Policy Director of SolarPower Europe, reflected on COVID-19’s impact on solar growth in Africa: “Accelerating electrification in emerging markets is not a given” and we must be reminded how important our efforts are and continue to be. The session concluded with Michael Franz, Team Leader at GET.invest, presenting a portfolio of their most diverse and innovative projects; the most unexpected of which was a solar cooking innovation!

The first deep dive session focused on solar in the support of healthcare, food, and water supply in Africa. It addressed the ever-present impact of the pandemic and the key role solar can play in providing reliable electricity for temperature-sensitive vaccine storage. The consensus was that solar’s off grid solutions can be a catalyst to providing reliable electricity and healthcare to rural areas in Africa, and the best policy response should both expand off-grid solutions and invest in grid expansion. The session also showcased the way in which hospitals are already using solar, and the fact that COVID-19 has emphasized the importance of reliable electricity for healthcare services. 

The session also focused on how Sub-Saharan Africa is exposed to an increased risk of desertification, leading to droughts and floods, and threatening the future stability of water supply. Rocio Gonzalez Sanchez, Project Officer, at the European Commission, presented research on how floating solar could be used to compliment hydropower in Africa. This would reduce water evaporation losses and compensate for hydropower production during dry periods, which may become more frequent as temperatures increase. With a total coverage of less than 1%, the installed power capacity of existing hydropower plants could double, and electricity output could grow by 58%, producing an additional 46.04 TWh annually. Hadyr Koumakpai General Manager Africa at  JA Solar noted here that solar and renewables should be deployed not to address temperature increases when they arise, but to prevent the global temperature from reaching this point in the first place. 

The last session of the day discussed green hydrogen’s role in enhancing the renewable-based electrification trend in Africa. Green hydrogen was highlighted by speakers for allowing more variable renewable energy integration, strengthening energy independence while creating jobs and accelerating the fight against climate change. The session explored how to realize this potential and how the EU’s Green Deal Diplomacy can contribute to this endeavor, with a presentation from Charlotte Hussy Advisor for Power Fuels, GIZ. One exciting project that was announced by the Dr. Chipo Shonhiwa National Team Member, Green Hydrogen Atlas Zimbabwe, was the opening of 60 positions for students across West Africa to study and train specifically in renewable energies and renewable hydrogen, to make sure the skills and competences will be available for renewable hydrogen deployment. 

Make sure to tune in on Monday for Day 1 of the SolarPower Summit, dedicated to Driving Sustainable Change together! High-level speakers include European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, youth climate leaders, and our first-ever Solar Gender Champion Award ceremony. 

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