Solar energy fortunes in Africa are improving

Posted on May 5, 2013 12:45 pm

It’s been touted as a safe bet for the energy hungry continent, and now industries in sub Saharan Africa are turning to solar power run their industries. The new developments is good news for African countries that have largely been lagging behind in terms of development compared to other parts of the world and one of the main problem has been acute energy supply. The new trend will go along way to dispel the notion that solar energy is not viable because the sun doesn’t shine at night and cloudy days. Companies like ABB have been at the forefront of solar energy development across the world. The energy storage problem that was associated with solar energy has been overcome after adequate research and resources were thrown at it and this breakthrough is good news for the renewable energy industry. Solar has arrived in Africa at the right time and will definitely be able to take a significant load off fossil-fuel driven power sources right now and if the mainstream manufacturing industries take it seriously and the necessary changes are made to allow its input.

There will be huge investments in the solar energy that will reduce cost of energy bills and lower cost of products produced in African to enable them compete with other regions. Germany achieved a new peak solar output of 22.68 GWs three weeks ago with whole daylight period of approximately 12 hours a total of 167GWs was produced which is an equivalent of eight average nuclear reactors and that is about 12 per cent of the total German electricity consumption. In most African countries, energy has remained Government controlled sector with state backed companies enjoying monopoly, and that means almost exclusively hydropower projects and in countries like Kenya Geo thermal power as well. Egypt and South Africa they have in addition nuclear energy but the pertinent issue of unbalanced power supply and outages remain present. In many cases of different countries in Africa I have been analyzing, there are oppressive regulations make it difficult if not impossible for private individuals to use solar.

On a larger scale, Uganda has been among the leading countries with progressive renovation of power grids to allow small and medium power producers to easily feed into the national grid. The country has taken important steps towards increasing solar energy capacity under the Ministry of Energy’s renewable energy development and is expected to attract huge investments by the end of this year. There has also been a welcome interest from the private sector in developing solar in Uganda. In other countries, however, the solar initiatives have been on a relatively small scale, lacking in urgency and not nearly bold enough despite the chronic power shortages in many African countries. Germany, a neighbor of Finland is not known for its sunny climate, it’s clear that solar could be taking a much greater role in supplying sunny Africa’s energy needs and reducing the continent’s reliance on fossil fuels. I think what a continent like Africa need is peak sunlight hours in the continent correspond to peak energy usage times when people are running factories and their other energy reliant businesses. This in my opinion would also lead directly to cleaner skies in the continent and an improved trade balance and reduced emissions of greenhouse gases.

Contador Harrison