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Sales of off-grid solar systems dim in 7 years

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Sales of off-grid solar systems in Kenya, the largest market in Sub-Saharan Africa, decreased 25 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016, Renewables 2018 Global Status Report indicates.

This followed years of growth from 2009-2016, which saw about nine million households access off-grid electricity connections.

In contrast, the devices market in Democratic Republic of Congo tripled whereas in Uganda it increased by about 21 per cent between 2016 and 2017.

The trend in Kenya mirrored the uptake of the devices in other key markets, including Ethiopia and East Asia.

According to the report, sales of off-grid solar system decreased by about 16 per cent between 2016 and 2017 in East Africa and South Asia. The two regions account for 66 per cent of the global off-grid solar systems sales.

“Across the top five markets, sales decreased in 2017 in Ethiopia, India and Kenya, whereas sales increased in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda,” the report reveals.

Globally, in 2017, an estimated 25.8 million off-grid solar systems were sold, a 14 per cent decrease from sales reported in 2016.

The report also reveal that Pico solar systems as compared to plug-and-play had a 15 per cent drop in sales with about 22.3 million devices sold in 2017.

“This contraction in sales is attributed mainly to a series of localised shocks in the key markets of India, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania, as well as to structural market changes,” says the report.

The report further notes that off-grid solar-based systems have increased access to electricity in most rural areas in East Africa and South Asia.

It says 51 per per cent (9 million households) of the off-grid population in Kenya is served by distributed renewables for energy access (DREA) systems, which are mostly solar.

The mini-grid solar based installation targeting off-grid communities, according to the report, got increased attention from investors and governments.

The market for larger solar systems also continued to grow in 2017, building on the momentum of pay-as-you-go (PAYG) sales in the traditional East African markets.

However, compared to small off-grid solar systems, the large solar systems still supply a small proportion of overall off-grid solar customers.

“The main drivers for the increased interest in mini-grids are the lower costs of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, improved understanding by investors about potential returns, operational performance and costs, as well as government recognition that DREA systems can help achieve targets for energy access more rapidly than traditional grid extensions,” the report says.

At the same time, according to the study, the market for clean cooking solutions reported 83 per cent growth in both East Africa and South Asia regions.

Kenya reported the biggest growth in the number of clean cook stoves distribute at 84 per cent compared to other Sub-Saharan countries. The use of biogas in the region continued to grow, notably in Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania.

“Through the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme, more than 58,000 biogas plants are estimated to have been installed in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda since 2009.”

About 55 per cent of people without electricity live in sub-Saharan Africa and 41 per cent in developing Asia. At the same time, 67 per cent of people without access to clean cooking facilities live in developing Asia and 30 per cent live in sub-Saharan Africa.

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