Renewable energy is taking off in Africa, with South Africa leading the charge to adoption of solar photovoltaic solutions.

Kathy Gibson attended the Solar and Storage Live conference, held alongside Future Energy and featuring the Huawei FusionSolar event, to find out more.


What’s needed to drive a vibrant renewable energy industry?

There’s no shortage of initiatives underway to drive a vibrant local industry for renewable energy, and the provision of net-zero energy into South Africa’s businesses, factories and homes.

But there are many challenges standing in the way of grasping these opportunities, among them skills development, community involvement and lack of manufacturing capacity.

The opportunity is clear. Gaylor Montmasson-Clair, South African Renewable Energy masterplan (SAREM) facilitator for trade and industrial policy strategies, points out that South Africans last year imported about $2,5-billion worth of batteries and inverters.

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The evolution of solar power continues …

Carbon neutrality and intelligence are goals driving technology efforts in the next decades.

As we build a new intelligent world, we are creating new energy sources along with new means of transportation, says Hesheng Xia, president of Huawei Digital Power, South Africa.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology is critical for new energy generation, he adds. As of last year, there was a total PV installed base of 550Gw: from 2024 to 2030, the annual average will be more than this cumulative total, Xia explains.

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Solar drives up residential fire risk

The power situation in South Africa is driving people to install solar systems – but they could be putting their homes and families at risk.

“Every fourth structural fire in Johannesburg we receive a call for is solar- or load shedding-related,” says Dewet Engelbrecht, CEO of FireOps SA. “And the magnitude of the losses are getting bigger.

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SA leads Africa’s solar boom

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.”

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Huawei Digital Power lays out a green vision for Africa

The shift to green and renewable energy is so important, particularly for Africa.

David Bian, director of Huawei Digital Power Sub-Saharan Africa, Smart PV Development Department, outlined why in a presentation to last week’s Solar and Storage Live exhibition: “Today, we still live in an era of carbon-based energy. In the short term, we will face the consequences of carbon emissions. And in the long term, we will face the risk of carbon resources exhaustion. The energy transition is therefore vital to the long-term development of human civilisation.”

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