July 12, 2018 Read More →

Solar development in Africa begins to accelerate

PV Tech:

After years of unconverted pipelines, stale financing and cost barriers, utility-scale solar PV in Africa has started to spring up across the continent. The worldwide decline in equipment prices has of course been a pivotal influence, but Sub-Saharan Africa also now hosts a number of support schemes backed by development banks that are driving significant project sizes in a number of countries.

Two years ago, PV Tech Power wrote about flickers of progress in West Africa specifically, but project sizes were limited to 20MW at most and despite some momentum, the pace was still regarded as slower than expected. Fast-forward to Q4 2017 and the market kicked off in a convincing way across many parts of Africa, with project completions, major tenders and long-term support polices being regularly announced all the way up to the spring of 2018. This period saw a deluge of headlines from the African continent.

“Large-scale solar build-out in sub-Saharan Africa will continue to be driven by multilateral programmes in the short to medium term,” says Silvia Macri, senior research analyst at IHS Markit. “Therefore I would keep an eye on those countries where tenders have already been announced under any of those schemes. On the list we can certainly mention Zambia, Senegal and Ethiopia and likely other countries will soon follow.

“This year projects were announced in Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Namibia, Cameroon, to name a few, which could hint to a domino effect of positive tender results elsewhere in the region. Outside of these programmes, it will be interesting to see what happens in Kenya. The former signed a number of solar PPAs at a relatively high feed-in tariff level, before an announced shift to a tender mechanism. Nigeria has a huge potential but no progress has been made with large-scale PPAs; definitely another market to follow closely,” adds Macri.

“It’s mostly the price which is driving this development, together with a better trust in the technology and the possibility to have available capacities very fast in a context of impending need for power,” says Karim Megherbi, director of origination, West Africa and Central Asia, at developer Access Power.

“The grid is going to be the main challenge,” adds Megherbi. “And this is going to come sooner than we expect.” Some countries are already struggling to absorb project capacities of 20-30 MW. Upgrading grid infrastructure also takes some years, so if not acted upon soon, the whole solar development will be slowed down, says Megherbi. The AfDB is showing good intent on this area by making grid infrastructure upgrades a fundamental part of its 10 GW solar deployment mission in the Sahel.

More: Large-scale solar blossoms in Africa

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