SA’s solar PV footprint is forecast to become 10th-largest globally

A solar panel fitted onto the roof of a home. File

A solar panel fitted onto the roof of a home. File

Published Mar 14, 2024


The dominance of solar PV continued to grow in South Africa’s journey towards energy security, with predictions that the country would be the 10th-largest PV market in the world this year, according to BloombergNEF’s recent report.

Dr Rethabile Melamu, the CEO of the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (Sapvia), said as an industry body, they were proud to have contributed to this globally respected report.

“The statistics generated by our own solar PV dashboard informed this latest BloombergNEF report and in particular the section that dealt with the South African landscape,” Melamu said.

BloombergNEF’s research documents provided a perspective on global commodity markets and the technologies driving the transition to a lower-carbon economy.

According to the report, the photovoltaic industry added about 444 GW of new capacity in 2023 internationally, a 76% growth on the 2022 build. Prices of solar modules were at record lows, and the supply of components was plentiful. End-user markets were booming while manufacturers struggle to make a profit. Installations this year will top 520GW.

In South Africa, Eskom estimated that rooftop solar additions totalled 2.6GW last year, while the BloombergNEF database tracked an additional 676MW - mostly the 540MW Scatec Solar Kenhardt plant. This took the total for last year to about 3.3GW -slightly below previous estimates.

Jenny Chase, the lead solar analyst at BloombergNEF, who authored the report, said Eskom and Sapvia were also pioneering new methods of estimating rooftop solar capacity in a country, from how observed demand for power on the grid varies with the weather.

“These methods are likely to be used more widely in other countries as incentive programs for solar become less important and therefore more capacity is built without the need to be registered by a centralised body,” Chase said.

This year, the report expected rooftop solar to grow, particularly in the winter months of May, June, and July when load shedding was more frequent and severe. Residential demand for solar was linked directly to load shedding and slowed down as soon as load shedding stopped. The report also expected business adoption of rooftop solar to accelerate.

The report said 90-95% of new residential solar installations and about 85% of commercial ones had battery electric storage for a few hours.

The pipeline of solar projects registered with national regulator Nersa since the beginning of 2023 totalled 4.3GW, according to Sapvia’s own data portal that is available on its website.

BloombergNEF maintained a build forecast for South Africa of 4.0-4.5GW in 2024, reaching a cumulative capacity of about 36GW in 2030.

According to another report by Technavio, published last month, South Africa: Solar Energy Market 2024-2028, the local solar energy market size is forecast to increase by $3.7 billion (R69bn) at a CAGR of 32.03% between 2023 and 2028.

The market research company, with global coverage, said South Africa was shifting its focus to solar PV systems for power generation to strengthen energy security and support economic growth and environmental sustainability.

“In addition, significant cost reductions of solar PV systems offer a cost-effective way to provide electricity. Furthermore, the adoption of grid-connected residential solar systems and mini-grids that utilise solar energy has significantly reduced the cost-per-watt value in South Africa. Hence, such factors are fuelling the growth of this segment which in turn drives the market growth during the forecast period.”