South Africa to learn from Germany’s PV experiences

German Solar Association will help boost South Africa’s PV development through a signed agreement.
Published: Mon 04 Jul 2016

Rooftop solar power is becoming a viable source of electrcity for many South Africans who are fed up with endless outages, as well as steep tariff increases.  Also, as South Africa’s ageing coal-fired generation fleet approaches the end of its economic lifetime, solar power is being looked at as a feasible replacement [South Africa's PV Development-No Longer A Silent Revolution]. But, a number of factors are slowing its growth. We wrote recently how the country's rooftop solar market is quickly falling behind the rest of the world’s due to rebate uncertainty and lack of finance options [South Africa's solar market needs innovative financing].

But now, with the recently signed agreement between the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) and German Solar Association (Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft e.V. or BSW-Solar), the country'srenewable sector, specifically rooftop solar, can expect to see major growth. The two associations have agreed to cooperate on a number of critical initiatives that are required to support the development of the nascent rooftop PV market segment in the country. The agreement gives South Africa's renewables market a great opportunity to gain learnings from Germany's vast experiences with renewables energy. [Germany's business opportunities in the power sector]

BSW-Solar represents approximately 1,000 companies, and has played a crucial role in creating conditions that are suitable for investment in Germany’s solar industry. SAPVIA represents over 160 companies, organisations and individuals who are involved in the  South African solar PV industry, taking into account the industry’s contribution towards energy security and economic development. 

Creating a sustainable PV rooftop market

The South African German Energy Programme (SAGEN), implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), supports the implementation of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures in South Africa. 

SAGEN’s main objective is to facilitate the development of the rooftop PV market in South Africa.  Facilitating the historic cooperation between SAPVIA and BSW-Solar will ensure a vibrant, sustainable market in the PV rooftop space.  

The agreement, formally signed in Munich, Germany, takes place in the context of SAPVIA’s support for the orderly development of the rooftop PV market segment. The most important aspect of this process is the institution of a framework that will provide assurance to role players including residential customers, investors, banks, insurance companies, electricity distributors (i.e. municipalities and Eskom), and relevant state organs, that solar PV installations and installers meet minimum internationally benchmarked quality and safety standards. SAPVIA will draw on the BSW-Solar’s experience with a similar process in Germany, which has resulted in the implementation of what is known as the “PV Passport”.

In addition, the agreement provides for business-to-business interactions among members of the respective associations. It is envisaged this will be of great benefit to small-medium enterprises (SMEs) that are active in the PV sector, both in Germany and South Africa.

Quality and safety of PV prioritised

Commenting on the collaborative effort, Moeketsi Thobela, CEO at SAPVIA, said: “There has been widespread recognition that rooftop PV holds great potential for South Africa. A hint in this regard is the fact that in 2015, new capacity additions from roof-top PV installations (in megawatts peak or MWp) out-paced those related to the large-scale Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPPP)”. Mr Thobela added: “Against this background, the requirement for a robust quality and safety assurance system cannot be over-emphasised”.

Jӧrg Mayer, Managing Director at BSW-Solar agreed, stating: “Our experience from Germany’s PV market – comprising rooftop and ground-mounted PV systems with total installed capacity of close to 40,000MWp – is that quality installations are a prerequisite for the sustainable evolution of this market.” Mayer continued, “It is our intention to support SAPVIA and key stakeholders in South Africa by sharing our experience in the implementation of a safety and quality assurance system. We therefore look forward to collaborating with SAPVIA on this and other important initiatives, including facilitating business-to-business interactions.”


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