Africa harbours monumental potential - potential that’s becoming actualised and epitomised by an abundance of growing energy-related opportunities across the continent.
At the forefront of this? Renewables, namely solar.
Let’s look at the context. Africa’s population is expected to double to 2.4 billion by 2050, and more than 80 percent of that increase will occur in its cities. Cairo and Kinshasa will both add more than 40 people to their communities every hour, for example, while Lagos will experience closer to double that number.
With this rapid urbanisation will come an influx of challenges. Larger cities require more schools, more housing, more infrastructure, and as a result more energy, with forecasts predicting that the region’s energy deficit could be as large as 24,000 MW by 2040 should current trends continue.
For this reason, Sustainable Development Goal number seven (ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) will become ever more crucial moving forward, helping to incite socioeconomic vibrancy, empowering small businesses, making communities safer and supporting essential infrastructure.
At the same time, meeting this goal won’t be as difficult as it was a decade previously, owed to the increasing accessibility and viability of solar panels.
Photovoltaic technologies have not only advanced and optimised but equally have become a cheaper, more cost-competitive solution compared to traditional methods.
In many African countries, there’s the opportunity to capture close to 12 hours sunlight for 300 days every year, not to mention the enviable amount of uninhabited, unobstructed land on which sizeable solar farms may be housed.
Analysing the opportunity
Egypt is one such location primed for a more expansive use of renewable energy sources.
Renowned as a “sunbelt” country, experiencing between 2,000 and 2,000 kWh/m2/year of direct solar radiation, the sun is free to shine between nine and 11 hours a day, rarely impeded by cloud cover.
As a result, the solar market here is potentially worth millions of dollars, something that’s becoming increasingly recognised by the public and private sector alike.
Indeed, this is the goal of Egypt’s Integrated Sustainable Energy Strategy.
Building upon previous strides that had also begun to look upon PV in a more favorable and realistic light, policymakers now intend to increase the supply of electricity generated from renewable sources to 20 percent by 2022 and 42 percent by 2035.
It is hoped that both the private sector and consumers alike will motivate this expansion. Why? Because solar makes sense from a return on investment perspective.
A leading light of change
Now cheaper than ever before, solar panels require minimal maintenance and last for a long time.
According to current estimations, if the average US household were to install an off-grid solar-powered system and save $150 per month by doing so, then it would take just five years to get back the initial return on investment. Looking at Egypt meanwhile, SolarizEgypt has to date has achieved EGP 453,000,000 in sun-powered savings.
In every sense, the stage is now set for solar to meet its true potential.
According to the International Energy Association, 70,000 panels will be installed every hour around the world between now and 2023 - a rise that will see total capacity triple by 2022.
And in Egypt, such a rise has already begun to come to fruition.
The country’s first solar thermal power plant at Kuraymat was built in 2011, while 2018 saw the inauguration of the Benban Solar Park in Egypt’s Western Desert, adding 800 MW to total installed capacity.
The opportunities are there for all to see. It’s now time to really take advantage of them.