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Solar power key for Africa's transition towards e-mobility

By Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya | | Updated: 2023-01-20 20:44
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A view shows solar panels at the green hydrogen proof-of-concept site in Vredendal, Western Cape, South Africa, Nov 15, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

As countries across the globe shift from the use of old internal combustion engine-based technology to electric mobility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, solar power could play a critical role for Africa to realize the transition, a new research has found.

The 2023 annual solar outlook report, released by the African Solar Industry Association on Wednesday, said the transition to electric bikes in Africa will happen very fast and solar is the only renewable power technology that can be deployed quickly and flexibly to follow the expected e-mobility boom in the continent.

Electric motorbikes are currently providing lower cost transport across the continent, according to the report, leading to a boom in taxi motor drivers switching to electric alternatives which, in turn, is fueling an increased solar demand.

The report said currently 27 million motorcycles are registered in sub-Sahara Africa, of which 80 percent are used as passenger taxis and for deliveries.

"The drivers of these motorbikes are very cost-sensitive as they drive an average of 200-kilometers per day. For them, any saving in operational costs can make a big difference," the report said.

"Switching to electric can help these taxi drivers increase their net take-home pay by 40-100 percent. We anticipate almost all commercial motorbikes in Africa to switch to electric in the next few years. This will be made very easy with "pay-as-you-drive" companies popping up all over the continent."

The report expects e-bikes solar power to be generated through a combination of commercial and industrial projects directly at the facilities of pay-as you-drive companies, but also through large scale projects being added to the grid, wheeling and net-metering.

"Every single solar panel will be required to ensure enough green power is available to charge our 'vehicles of tomorrow'," it said.

According to the African Solar Industry Association, there is a growing spread of solar adoption across Africa, beyond the historical hot spots - South Africa, Morocco and Egypt.

Currently, 49 African countries are considering at least 1 megawatt of solar installations and 29 on more than 100 megawatts.

Despite having a 60 percent of the world's best solar resources, Africa hosts less than one percent of the global solar capacity. In 2022, the continent installed less than 0.5 percent of the global new capacity.

The report said the continent installed 949 megawatts of new photovoltaics, a 14 percent year-on-year growth compared to 2021 when it installed 833 megawatts.

A report published last year by Elsevier Ltd, a global information and analytics business, named scarce skilled personnel and staff as well as inadequate financing as the key challenges hindering the widespread adoption of solar energy technologies in Africa.

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