Solar power has come of age
Clean and accessible energy is an integral part of sustainable development. Access to clean energy such as solar can address air pollution and energy poverty; empower women; improve human health; and unleash local enterprise and entrepreneurship. Ensuring access to clean and affordable energy can be a challenge. Cost, technical deficiencies, distribution bottlenecks and institutional challenges are the most common.
Recent technological developments have made providing access to clean energy easier. Solar energy in particular has gained in popularity.
Solar energy use is on the rise. About 760 MW of solar power was expected to be connected to be grid in 2019 in Southern Europe namely Spain, Italy and Portugal. In Africa similar programmes are planned to come on onstream in Morocco, and Gambia.
The new found interest in solar power can be attributed to a number factors. Solar power has become cheaper and now competitive without subsidies. The cost of solar has fallen by 85% since 2010, making it cheaper than new coal and gas plants. Also, solar power is expected to accelerate the phase out of fossil fuels and the transition to a low carbon future. Electricity generation and heating accounts for 25% of global GHG emissions. Widespread adoption of solar and other forms of renewable energy will help reduce GHG emissions. Investments in the development and deployment of solar energy will foster sustainable growth and create value chains that could serve various industries, and employ thousands of people both directly and indirectly. The demand for engineers, construction workers, installers and solar components will increase, which will be critical in the context of recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
To harness all the opportunities associated with solar power, a number of obstacles would have to be overcome that neither the private sector nor the government can address alone. Solar does not work at night. Unlike gas plants they do not provide round the clock power and cannot be on call when needed. Battery storage is an option but that can be expensive.There is the need for critical mass in investment to maintain the competitiveness of the sector as well as an enabling regulatory framework. Other requirements include sustained research and innovation, large scale infrastructure networks and cooperation with international development partners.
SOURCE: IESI AFRICA