For years, solar panels seemed an inadequate, minor solution for Africa’s energy needs. With more than 600-million people living without electricity service and many more experiencing daily interruptions, could this technology ever make an impact?
Yes. In less than a decade, the cost of producing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels has dropped 80%, thanks to technological advances and a surge in demand amid climate-change concerns.
Even without subsidies, solar tariffs are now near parity with coal-, oil-, and gas-fired electricity. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that solar PV will be the least-cost generation technology in most countries by 2030, as well as one of the fastest to build.
The consequences of these market shifts are already apparent. In developed and developing countries, solar panels are moving beyond household and off-grid uses to supply industrial power and feed clean energy into national grids at large scale. This is driven by economics as much as policy — virtually every month, there are new record-low tariffs in solar power, including in emerging markets.
The challenge today is that we must ensure that these lower costs provide affordable power that allows businesses to create jobs and the poor to improve their lives.