Kathy Gibson reports from Huawei SolarFusion Partner Summit – Africa is on the brink of a real solar boom.

John van Zuylen, CEO of the Africa Solar Industry Association (AFSIA), explains that solar is growing exponentially. After years of lacklustre solar photovoltaic (PV) activity, a massive 3,1Gw was installed in 2022 and 3,7Gw in 2023 – and this excludes household installations.

“In 2024, between 4,2Gw and 4,5Gsw is expected to be installed, so we are looking at a a cumulative total of above 16Gw of installed PV,” says Van Zuylen. “We are also witnessing a complete shift from utility-size installations to commercial and industrial (C&I) projects. These C&I project now account for a massive 64% of all installations – up from 53% in 2022.”

South Africa is driving the move to solar, with about 80% of the entire African solar business taking place locally.

Historically, close to 50% of all cumulative projects are driven by South Africa, which is now home to 47% of all solar in the continent.

When it comes to storage, the same trends are apparent: In the last year, storage volumes have grown exponentially with a massive 1 908GwH installed last year, but 9 784GwHs are currently under development.

Import numbers are equally dramatic: In 2022, South Africans imported $345-million worth of solar products; by 2023, this shot up to $947-million.”

This growth is driven by two factors: National load shedding; and better, more affordable, solutions.

However, without net-metering – where the grid becomes the storage bank – solar penetration will stay lower than it should be.

“So the only alternative is storage,” van Zuylen says. “We have seen a massive evolution in this technology in the last two-to-three years, it’s become much more cost-competitive.”

This unlocks numerous possibilities and is driving more market activity.

There are currently 137 large-scale projects underway across Africa. “And the storage size keeps on increasing,” Van Zuylen says.