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The use of solar home systems in SSA has grown sevenfold since 2015 – IEA



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The International Energy Agency (IEA) has noted that annual sales of solar home systems have grown seven-fold since 2015. The agency noted this in its World Energy Outlook which was released earlier this week.

According to the IEA, Solar home systems (SHS) have emerged as a dependable source of electricity, especially in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa lacking reliable grid connections.

It stated further that since 2015, the annual sales of SHS with capacities exceeding 11 Watt-peak (Wp) have skyrocketed in the region, growing more than sevenfold.

These systems are capable of meeting the essential energy needs of households, including lighting, phone charging, and radio.

However, it is important to note that only SHS with capacities above 50 Wp is considered to provide essential access.

For a comprehensive perspective, an essential SHS bundle includes four light bulbs for four hours per day, a fan running for three hours per day, and a television in operation for two hours per day.

This roughly amounts to 500 kilowatt-hours per household per year.

Presently, more than 45 million people in sub-Saharan Africa rely on SHS exceeding 11 Wp, constituting nearly 10% of the population with access to electricity.

Remarkably, in 2022, SHS played a pivotal role in expanding electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for over half of the increase.

Despite the recent uptick in equipment costs for solar home systems, their sales remained stable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Importantly, they remain a more cost-effective option compared to grid connections in many sub-Saharan countries.

In 2022, the IEA noted that sales of SHS surged by approximately 50% in the region, doubling the levels achieved in 2018.

Pay-as-you-go systems, which eliminate the upfront cost barrier, are particularly instrumental where affordability is the primary concern and access to loans is limited.

These systems currently represent nearly 95% of SHS sales among key distributors in the region. However, it is worth noting that pay-as-you-go systems heavily rely on mobile phone services.

This reliance presents significant challenges in areas with weak network coverage and unreliable mobile network services.

As a response to fuel subsidy removal, the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) says it is gearing up to extend support to 250,000 households through a range of innovative initiatives, including electric mobility, mini-grids, and solar home systems.

To achieve this, the REA is actively implementing interventions that encompass the development of electric mobility, expansion of mini-grids, distribution of home systems, and the deployment of streetlights.

These efforts are poised to potentially benefit up to 250,000 households by the year 2024.

In line with its mission, the agency is collaborating with various stakeholders to fulfil the important goal of bringing accessible electricity to homes in rural communities.

Note that from 2020 to the present, the REA has provided power to over 7.5 million people, including 1.5 million households.

This accomplishment includes the successful execution of 130 mini-grid projects and the installation of 1.3 million standalone home systems.