By Kathy Gibson – 2022 was another record year for solar around the world, with Africa holding its own in terms of renewable deployments.

“And most probably we will be progressing faster across the continent than other regions in years to come,” says John van Zuylen, CEO of African Solar Industry Association (AFSIA), addressing delegates at the Huawei FusionSolar Forum, held alongside the recent Solar and Future Energy Show.

The AFSIA’s annual Solar Outlook 2023 estimates that, at the end of last year, the world passed the terawatt (TW) peak of installed renewables. During the year, Africa added 1GW of solar in 2022, to bring the cumulative capacity in operation on the continent to between 10,5GW and 12,6GW.

These new projects herald a period of growing activity in Africa, Van Zuylen believes.

Solar is now taking root across the entire continent. In 2022, there were some promising new projects (excluding residential), with 30 countries across the continent installing more than 1MW, 16 completing more than 10MW, and two countries having installed projects exceeding 100MW.

Cumulatively, 49 African countries are working on projects in excess of 1MW, and 29 countries have projects of more than 100MW underway.

Africa’s top renewable energy performers are still Angola, South Africa, and Egypt.

In 2022, commercial and industrial (C&I) installations dominated the African market while mini-grids have seen a decline.

There were more than 250 C&I projects commissioned last year compared to a 3% growth in large-scale projects and a decline of 18% in mini-grids. Solar home systems (SHS) saw 20,7% growth in 2022.

An encouraging trend is that large-scale projects in Africa are seeing a strong comeback in 2023.

These projects have seen two peaks during big tender windows in 2014 and 2018, but are set to sustain growth going forward. In 2023, projects to produce 555GW have already been commissioned, with a massive 2 645 GW planned for the rest of the year.

These projects are taking place throughout Africa, and herald an opportunity for South African companies to expand their footprint across the continent, Van Zuylen says.

Today, large scale PV and storage is no longer the exception. The AFSIA has identified 45 projects across the continent with nine in operation, 11 under construction, and 25 under development.

Storage size is also increasing: the largest in operation today is 25MWh, but a project with 225MWh is under construction now – and one in excess of 300MWh is in planning.

There are great prospects ahead for Africa, well on par with the rest of the world, Van Zuylen says.

A massive 5GW of C&I projects and additional large-scale projects are being planned and the continent is ideally position for green hydrogen, with 52GW of projects already announced.

Around the world, e-mobility is a growing trend, and it will require most African countries to double or triple their current installed energy capacity in order to support the move.

“This is a massive component that will lead to massive solar capability as this will be the undoubted source for e-mobility energy,” Van Zuylen says.

He adds that, across Africa, one trend that cannot be underestimated is the productive use of energy (PUE) that allows users in under-developed areas to engage in economic activities.