In past years off grid solar devices have grown constantly in the development countries, reaching nowadays an estimated 130 million units, ranging from small portable lanterns to 100+ Watt solar home systems capable of powering appliances such as TVs and fans. These devices provided a first-time access to lighting and other energy services, but to solve the lack of access to electricity of more than 2.2 billion people in the world, larger devices and systems must be implemented in a widespread manner.
Since 2014 investment in the sector doubled annually and bigger solar home systems have witnessed an exponential growth, especially for Pay as You Go solutions that have permitted to reach more consumers in emerging markets. Pay as You Go (or PAYGO) is a prepayment energy solar powered system that allows customers to avoid the initial upfront costs of a solar home system. Thanks to these systems, many private companies were born, developing and expanding the range of solutions and products offered.
Governments, too, are increasing their support to off-grid development, implementing off-grid solar solutions into their national electrification plans and developing regulation to support the private sector.
In 2017 the off grid solar market sector provided electricity access to over 360 million people, thus making them independent from the use of kerosene and solid fuels.
Considering a significant entry into the market and the commitment of the private sector by a global pool of producers and distributors more and more diversified, increased interest from investors and a potential market of over 430 million families, the year 2018 will be very important for off grid market to solve some problems that still afflict population in development countries, such as:- Despite the increase of a large portion of populations that were connected to the grid since 2010, many are receiving inadequate power- High population growth in some of the most poorly electrified regions (especially Sub-Saharan Africa) keeps the market size large in absolute numbers- Customers already served by off grid solutions require maintenance, replacement or upgrade of existing systems.
Mini-grids (decentralized local power plants with solar battery storage system) are the most economic solutions to develop the energy access in these countries, by combining the benefits of a grid-based solution with the potential for harnessing renewable energies at the local level, but to be feasible from economics of scale it must be accompanied by a productive growth of the population. The higher price and power of the system (but with a lower cost per kWp) can be afforded only by a village with a commercial development and with more employment options.
Solar home systems (stand alone solar storage systems), especially for Pay as You Go solutions that are attracting the major investments, remain for the moment the solution with the widest potential diffusion. The following chart shows the forecast for the next years:
Households will join the mini-grid in their own time, once their load requirement reaches a level that justifies the cost of joining the mini-grid.
The next blog we will talk about Pay as You Go solution.