Africa's Solar Capacity Grew by 14% in 2022 to Nearly 1 GW

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Africa added 989 MW of solar capacity in 2022, a 14% growth year-over-over, a report published by the Africa Solar Industry Association (AFSIA) said.

It added that the continent’s total solar capacity stood at over 10 GW at the end of last year.

Historically, solar energy development in Africa has been concentrated in a few key countries, such as South Africa, Morocco, and Egypt.

However, last year saw 30 countries installing more than 1 MW of solar capacity, with 16 countries adding more than 10 MW capacity and two countries installing more than 100 MW.

Angola (284 MW), South Africa (111.8 MW), Egypt (80 MW), Ghana (71.3 MW), and Mozambique (41.9 MW) were the top countries for solar capacity additions in 2022. Angola commissioned the 188 MW Biópio solar project and the 96 MW Baía Farta solar project.

C&I sector

Most installed capacity still comes from large-scale projects, but it’s noteworthy that the commercial and industrial sector (C&I) now accounts for nearly 30% of all installations in the continent.

The C&I sector has seen a 61.5% year-over-year growth, and with recent announcements of significant financing deals and mergers and acquisitions in the sector, this trend will likely continue.

The C&I sector will be crucial in South Africa’s future energy mix. While C&I projects represent only 4.8% of potential future capacity across Africa, more than 5 GW of C&I projects are currently under development, representing almost 50% of the total installed capacity across the continent. Out of the projects under development, 3.4 GW is based in South Africa alone.

Mini-Grids

Data across the continent show that mini-grids had a difficult year in 2022, with an 18% decrease in installed capacity compared to the previous year, installing only 5 MW. This segment is still heavily dependent on grants and subsidies as it tries to find commercially viable solutions.

The number of countries where mini-grids have been active is relatively limited, with Nigeria leading with close to 1.5 MW of new capacity, followed by Mali, Uganda, Kenya, and Mozambique.

Small-scale solar

On the other hand, small-scale solar home systems (SHS) had a successful year, with an estimated 20.7% increase in installed capacity.

The data for the full year 2022 is not yet available. Still, the estimated 67 MW of SHS for the year is a significant increase from the previous year, driven primarily by the major SHS players in the continent.

However, there is still more work to be done to reach the performance of 2019 and 2020, which saw 80 and 91 MW of SHS brought to market, respectively.

Last October, research published in Nature Energy said the immense benefits of a high renewable energy share in the African energy mix are indisputable, but the objective can be met only by adopting a country and context-specific strategy instead of treating the continent as a monolith.

In a report last year, International Renewable Energy Agency and African Development Bank said a calibrated policy framework centered on renewable energy could help resolve many of Africa’s social, economic, health, and environmental challenges.