Fall in off-grid solar sales deprives 5m people of access to clean power


The Covid-19 pandemic has hit global off-grid solar product sales to such an extent this year it has been estimated around 5 million people were deprived of access to the clean energy in their homes and businesses.

Despite first-half sales of off-grid solar products tumbling 26% on the same period of last year, however, investors are said to remain optimistic, according to the World Bank and the chief trade body for off-grid PV.

Netherlands-based GOGLA – formerly the Global Off-grid Lighting Association – and the World Bank‘s Lighting Global program publish a half-yearly update on sales of off-grid solar products.

As reported by pv magazine, the latest, January-to-June edition of the Global Off-grid Solar Market Report painted a mixed picture, with solar-powered refrigerator sales down while solar TV set figures were stable.

GOGLA and the World Bank said regulatory and financial support could see the sector rebound to recover last year's growth momentum but called for off-grid solar companies to be protected from operational losses. Such companies could generate employment to replace jobs lost during the pandemic, the first-half update stated.

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The report outlined how South Asia saw a 60% fall in off-grid product sales compared with the first half of last year and, while the figures for central and West Africa remained steady, the East Africa market experienced an 11% reverse.

The sales decline particularly affected energy efficient solar water pumps. The resilience of solar TV sales was put down to a desire for entertainment and access to public health updates during Covid-19-related lockdowns.

GOGLA said three-quarters of off-grid investors were keen to maintain or increase their backing this year and said funding bodies are also prepared to ease terms as the sector becomes more mature.

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