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SA’s Solar PV market expected to become one of the world’s largest in 2024

The dominance of solar PV continues to grow in South Africa’s journey towards energy security and a report released last week has again confirmed its contribution. BloombergNEF’s Q1 global PV market outlook predicts that South Africa will be the tenth-largest PV market in the world in 2024.

“As an industry body, we 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,” says Dr Rethabile Melamu, CEO of the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA).

BloombergNEF’s research documents provide 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 gigawatts of new capacity in 2023 internationally, a 76% growth on the 2022 build. Prices of solar modules are at record lows, and the supply of components is plentiful. End-user markets are booming while manufacturers struggle to make a profit. Installations this year will top 520GW.

In South Africa, Eskom estimates that rooftop solar additions totalled 2.6GW in 2023, while the BloombergNEF database tracked an additional 676MW (mostly the 540MW Scatec Solar Kenhardt plant). This takes the total for 2023 to about 3.3GW – slightly below previous estimates.

“Eskom and SAPVIA are 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,” notes Jenny Chase, lead solar analyst at BloombergNEF, who authored the report.

In 2024, the report expects rooftop solar to grow, particularly in the winter months of May, June, and July when loadshedding is more frequent and severe. Residential demand for solar is linked directly to loadshedding and slows down as soon as loadshedding stops. The report also expects business adoption of rooftop solar to accelerate.

According to the information supplied to the report by SAPVIA, 90-95% of new residential solar installations and about 85% of commercial ones have battery electric storage for a few hours. The pipeline of solar projects registered with national regulator Nersa since the beginning of 2023 totals 4.3GW, according to SAPVIA’s own data portal that is available on its website.

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

“As an industry body, we look forward to working with our various stakeholders and partners this year to make sure that solar PV maintains its rightful place as part of our country’s energy plans for the future,” says Melamu.