PV demand in Middle East, Africa to grow by 50% in 2014

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PV demand in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is set to grow 50 percent year-over-year in 2014, according to a NPD Solarbuzz’s Emerging PV Markets Report: Middle East and Africa.

It adds that between 2014 and 2018, annual PV demand will nearly triple as the MEA region becomes a key market for the global industry. By 2018, annual PV demand in the region is expected to reach 4.4 GW, with an upside potential of 10 GW.

PV demand from the MEA region in 2013 grew by 670 percent, compared to 2012 when the region added approximately 140 MW, the research group points out. Previously, the region had a substantial share of small off-grid PV systems; however, in 2013 the on-grid segment became the main factor driving growth to more than 1 GW, with 1.6 GW forecast for 2014. In 2018, ground-mount systems will account for over 70 percent of the market.

Until now, PV growth in the MEA region has been predominantly driven by a small number of economically prosperous countries, in particular South Africa and Israel. Along with Saudi Arabia, these three countries are expected to offer stable demand levels within the MEA region over the next few years.

"Solar PV represents an ideal renewable energy type across much of the Middle East and Africa," says NPD Solarbuzz analyst Susanne von Aichberger. "Even so, market drivers and constraints differ greatly between the two regions."

In most of the Middle East, renewable energy is seen as a means of preserving domestic oil and gas reserves, the report adds. Middle East PV demand is forecast to reach 2.2 GW in 2018, with an upside potential of 4 GW. Israel is projected to be the largest PV market in the Middle East in 2014 mainly through solar parks and rooftop systems based on net-metering.

Saudi Arabia’s ambitious renewables program will finally start to materialize this year, making it the largest PV market in the MEA region by 2016. Saudi Arabia is forecast to add 2.4 GW of new PV capacity between 2016 and 2018. Other key solar PV markets in the Middle East include the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Kuwait.

With a severe shortage of electricity within Africa in general, and large parts of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa having no access to electricity, solar PV is considered suitable for helping to stimulate social and economic development in the region. PV demand from Africa is forecast to reach 2.2 GW in 2018, with an upside potential of 6 GW.

In 2014, African PV demand will continue to be dominated by South Africa, due to the construction of large-scale PV projects resulting from the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPP).

"In the past 12 months, new plans for large PV projects have emerged across Africa, including the sub-Saharan countries of Cameroon, Swaziland and Uganda," von Aichberger adds. "Announcements of PV projects in the 100 megawatts range have now become common, as a means of expanding power generation capacity quickly."