Why Africa needs to tap into its potential for solar

By November 30, 2018 Solar Tech

China, Turkey, USA, India and Japan, which experience less sunlight hours than sub-saharan Africa are increasing their solar energy generation capacity every year. These 5 countries led to 84% of the increase in the world’s solar installations in 2017.  According to the Global Solar Power Map, African countries enjoy some of the longest daily sun hours which makes them great candidates for solar power generation. However, Sub Saharan Africa still has over 600 million people living without electricity.

In Uganda, hydroelectric power which produces 84% of actual electricity supply (550MW) is not sufficient for the country’s power needs. This leads to frequent power outages causing consumers to substitute supply with thermal generators which are expensive to run especially for commercial power needs.

The cost of hydroelectricity is more than twice the cost of solar energy, when considering the cost of installation of solar systems. Cost of electricity in Uganda averages $0.17/kWh. Cost of solar installations is about $0.07/kWh.

There is a call for African governments to subsidize solar systems. Although cost per kWh is lower for a solar installation, the initial cost of set up is still prohibitive for many.

Households and commercial facilities should perhaps start off by using solar energy as an alternative to meet some and not all energy needs. For instance, one may use solar for lighting and use the power grid for appliances, as a first step. This would reduce the cost of the electricity requirements.

Organizations which work amongst rural communities are able to bring electric lighting to remote areas through solar system installation.

A removal of some taxes on solar equipment could reduce the cost of an installation by about 50%. This was expressed by Uganda Solar Energy Association chairman, Mr. Emmy Kimbowa (Daily Monitor, June 27, 2018)

In addition, government projects that extend electrification through solar energy to rural areas are transforming community health centers and educational premises.