solar PV
Droogfontein 2 Solar Park situated near Kimberley in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Credit: juwi.

The South African solar PV market installed 1,313MW during 2020, broken down into 813MW of utility-scale systems and 500MW of distributed generation.

This took the country’s cumulative solar PV capacity to 4,172MW – 2,372MW of which is provided by utility-scale solar.

In a press statement, SAPVIA said it is estimated that 20% of the 500MW distributed energy consists of residential systems, with the C&I sector contributing the largest bulk of rooftop capacity.

This tallies with the uptake of solar PV into the African C&I sector over the past few years, according to the African Solar Industry Association’s Africa Solar Report released early in 2021. That report said while large scale solar projects have dominated the sector over the past few years, the C&I energy landscape is booming. Their data suggests the C&I sector could represent 30-40% of all solar capacity installed over the next few years.

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South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2019) outlines a new additional capacity of 6GW utility-scale solar PV and 6GW of distributed generation – the majority of which is expected to come from solar – to be installed by 2030.

The IRP2019 is based on least-cost electricity supply and demand balance, considering security of supply and the environment, and will result in a 400%+ increase of solar PV by 2030. “This will increase the PV installed capacity from 3% of the current total electricity supply to 11% by 2030,” said SAPVIA spokesperson Maloba Tshehla.

Solar PV and renewable energy procurement in SA needs long term commitments for procurement from government

Tshehla pointed out the country’s policy landscape continues to change as government and industry work to meet the increasing energy needs of the country as it embarks on a post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

“The commitment of President Cyril Ramaphosa to amend Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act and to raise the licensing exemption threshold for distributed generation facilities from 1MW to 100MW, should cause a rapid increase in the development of large scale distributed generation projects

“This work on updating the regulations that will allow municipalities to develop and procure their own power generation projects shows that the government is working hard to create the right policy environment to let the industry fully realise the IRP2019 targets,” said Tshehla.

He pointed out the solar PV market in South Africa does still face challenges and SAPVIA recommends the IRP should be reviewed and updated to better enable government policy planning.

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According to Tshehla, progress has been hampered by a lack of consistency in the procurement of solar PV projects. “However, it must be noted that over the last 12 months the government has responded with pace and urgency. For the industry to fully realise the opportunities of renewable energy and solar PV specifically, we need long-term commitments from the government to procure on a more consistent basis.”

“If industry is confident of a future procurement pipeline, they will then invest with confidence in local manufacturing, which could then develop and thrive, offering more local opportunities for employment and upskilling,” he said.

SAPVIA believes it is a matter of urgency to address capacity challenges at distributor level, implement the correct and most appropriate bureaucratic processes to allow policy to be implemented and create space for more innovative funding models to allow participation from non-traditional investors.

Longi Solar strip banner 100MW