South Africa’s solar panel imports hit new record

Roof solar

The import of solar panels has hit a new record, with R8.4 billion worth of panels being imported in the second quarter of 2023, over double the amount imported in the year’s first quarter. 

The value of imports in the first half of 2023 is more than the entire value imported in 2022, which was R5.6 billion. 

R12 billion worth of solar panels have been imported by South Africans so far in 2023. 

Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies senior economist Gaylor Montmasson-Clair said this is due to sustained demand from South Africa’s private sector. 

Since 2010, South Africa has imported R35 billion worth of solar panels. Imports were initially supported by government investment into renewables but are now primarily supported by private investment.

Based on the assumption that solar panels cost $0.2 to $0.3 per watt, Montmasson-Clair estimated that the R12 billion of imported solar panels is equivalent to roughly 2,200 MW of generation capacity.

Following the same assumption, the country added 1,100 MW to 1,700 MW across the entire year of 2022. 

Source: Gaylor Montmasson-Clair, based on data from TradeMap and Quantec

Sustained demand is vital for building a local industry based on solar energy generation. 

South Africa has two solar panel manufacturers, ART Solar and SeraphimSolar. The latter is a Chinese company with a local factory. 

Increased load-shedding has pushed many South African citizens and companies to invest in alternative energy sources, such as solar. 

This is a particularly positive development in solving ongoing load-shedding in the country, with the private sector stepping in to bolster electricity generation.

Data shared by Eskom and Professor Anton Eberhard revealed that South African households and businesses had installed 4,400 MW of rooftop solar PV.

Eberhard posted data from Eskom, which showed that the country’s installed solar rooftop PV increased from 983 MW in March 2023 to 4,412 MW in June 2023.

This 349% increase in solar rooftop PV significantly reduced the residual load that Eskom needs to meet during the day.

Eberhard said it meant less load-shedding and more available energy for Eskom to restore its pumped hydro and diesel storage.

The rapid increase in solar PV installations was expected, considering the higher stages and frequency of load-shedding over the past 18 months. 


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