Massive solar potential in East Africa but only 3.9pc installation

07Jun 2019
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Massive solar potential in East Africa but only 3.9pc installation

EAST African nations of Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have massive potential to generate solar power but have so far only tapped 3.9 percent of the total installed PV capacity in Africa.

In a new report by Rotterdam based Solarplaza International BV, the four countries have a combined photo-voltaic (PV) capacity of 199 megawatts, which a very smaller fraction compared to other African countries.

“Nonetheless, there have been significant efforts from some of those countries to boost their PV capacity. Kenya was the clear winner, as it was able to add 55 MW of PV capacity to its power generation mix in 2018, the highest of the four countries,” the report said.

Christened Regional Solar Report ahead of the upcoming Pan-African conference on Unlocking Solar Capital Africa due to be held in Senegalese capital of Dakar next October, the report further noted that not only did Kenya add the largest amount of PV capacity, but it also commissioned the largest solar power plant in the region, the 55MW Garissa Solar Park, which shows the potential that the country has towards utility-scale development.

“Uganda also broke records in 2018, when it added an astounding 20 percent of extra power generation capacity, partly due to the commissioning of the 24MW Kabulasoke solar power plant,” noting that the country’s mini-grid sector is showing the most potential as it expects to commission 65 mini grids in the coming years, mostly located on Lake Victoria, with another 22 solar-hybrid mini grids in the pipeline.

Ethiopia and Tanzania did not add much PV capacity in 2018, however both countries show the highest amount of potential when it comes to utility-scale solar projects. Ethiopia has the lowest installed solar energy capacity of the four countries, but has an impressive pipeline of 1.1 GW of large-scale solar projects, by far the largest in the region.

“Tanzania, on the other hand, does not boast such an extensive pipeline, however the country is working on the largest solar PV project in the region, namely, the 60MW Shinyanga Solar Power Plant,” the report added.

Overall, Tanzania’s investment landscape in renewables is looking more promising since the announcement of the African Development Bank to invest U$870,000 in the country’s Rural Energy Agency via its Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa trust fund.

In total, these four countries have pledged to add a minimum of 1,000MW of solar PV capacity by 2020 which is an ambitious target that will help propel the region to expand its electricity networks and significantly increase electrification rates.

“However, adding so much capacity through large- scale projects might prove to be too much for the fragile electricity grids, which means that the new capacity should also be spread across mini/micro grid initiatives and off-grid projects, especially for remote communities,” the Solarplaza International BV report advised.

 It still needs to be seen how the region will develop in 2019, especially with the emergence of PV tenders and PPAs, and the ever-increasing presence of foreign investors interested in reaping the rewards present in Eastern Africa’s solar energy sector, the regional report concluded.


Access-Power’s Soroti District solar plant with capacity of 50GW per annum is one of the largest in East Africa. File photo.