COVID-19 Fuels African Solar Adoption

Across the continent, volatile electricity demand due to COVID-19 has translated into a growing need for alternative energy sources to maintain grid stability. In addition to powering households, business and industry to indirectly mitigate the economic damage done by COVID-19, electricity itself is central to the fight against the pandemic, in terms of powering hospitals and emergency health care facilities.

As a result, off-grid solutions, specifically in solar, have emerged as viable alternatives to grid-connected infrastructure, as they do not require the construction of capital-intensive transmission lines. In addition, a number of technological and financing advancements, such as pay-as-you-go (PAYG) systems and payments made by mobile devices, have been able to expedite the rollout of renewable technologies and simplify the cost structures traditionally associated with large-scale utilities.

Several countries have recently implemented initiatives that turn to solar adoption to meet energy needs. In April, Nigeria’s Rural Electrification Agency established solar-related response measures in partnership with the African Development Bank and World Bank that provides grants to households to install solar home systems, as well as install medical and health centers with mini-grid solar solutions.

Meanwhile, German solar energy equipment supplier Redavia is offering its PAYG systems free of charge for six months to companies in Ghana and Kenya. The program has received interest from companies across a wide range of sectors, such as Mankoadze Fisheries Ltd. and the Royal Senchi Hotel and Resort in Ghana, for which substantial revenue losses due to COVID-19 have made reduced utility costs a requirement for survival.

Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya represent three countries with vast solar potential and for which progressive solar adoption is anticipated. According to GlobalData Power Intelligence Center, cumulative installed solar capacity between the three countries is estimated to increase from approximately 450 MW in 2020 to approximately 1,800 MW by 2024.

Despite the rising implementation of solar and other renewable energies, hurdles to widespread adoption remain, primarily in overcoming the initial costs of installing renewable energy systems at scale.