Climate Action

The uptake of off-grid solar systems in Africa

In Africa 60 million people are using off grid solar panel systems for cheaper, cleaner and more reliable energy

  • 24 October 2016
  • William Brittlebank

In Africa 60 million people are using off grid solar panel systems for cheaper, cleaner and more reliable energy.

According to statistics from IRENA, 10 per cent of the 600 million people living off-grid in Africa now use clean solar energy to power their homes.

The decreasing prices of home solar panel systems in Africa have make this uptake possible - the cost for solar being lower than diesel and kerosene.

Solar energy is able to power several households for $56 per year.

According to IRENA Director-General, Adnan Z. Amin, 350,000 people in East Africa use similar systems, thanks to money transfers via mobile phones.

Amin said: “Here in Kenya, we find ourselves at one of the global epicentres of growth, where solar products combined with pay-as-you-go models and mobile payment technologies are breaking new ground in bottom-up electricity sector development.”

Regions such as Northern Kenya, which has a very sparse population, will rely more and more on solar mini-grids, and will sometimes be combined with wind power, according to Joseph Njoroge, Kenya’s Energy and Petroleum Principal Secretary.

Njoroge said: “We have a third of Kenya’s population living in the northern part of the country, which is also two-thirds of the total area of the country, and it is here that we shall hugely deploy solar mini-grids to attain universal access to power - possibly even before the year 2030.”

In August, Kenya received US $36 million in funding from France to help put 23 mini-grid solar and wind systems in place.

Renewable energy innovation – including new business models and finance – will contribute to a 60 per cent decrease in the cost of electricity production from renewable mini-grids in the next 20 years, according to IRENA.

The price of solar home lighting systems has decreased by 80 per cent since 2010, and now cost approximately $120 for a small-scale system in Kenya.

Off-grid solar investment has also increased by 15 times between 2012 and 2015 - US $276 million was invested last year in off-grid solar.

The renewable energy sector also contributes to creating employment with 8.1 million jobs worldwide as of last year – an increase of 1.3 million compared to 2014.