South Africa imported R16.5 billion of solar panels in 9 months

South Africa has imported over R16.5 billion worth of solar panels in the first nine months of 2023, equal to over 4,500 MW in generation capacity. 

Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies senior economist Gaylor Montmasson-Clair revealed this in a social media post this week. 

South Africa has seen sustained demand for solar panels, inverters, and batteries in 2023 as the country experienced the worst load-shedding in its history in the first part of 2023. 

This has pushed businesses and households to adapt to the reality of an inconsistent energy supply, with many turning to solar to reduce their reliance on Eskom. 

The demand for alternative energy sources has increased almost in lock-step with the increased load-shedding South Africa has experienced in 2022 and 2023. 

Sustained demand has created local business opportunities and a local solar panel manufacturing industry potentially emerging. 

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.

In 2022, South Africa imported R5.6 billion worth of solar panels, with demand increasing towards the end of the year as the country began to experience prolonged outages. 

Demand has skyrocketed in 2023, with R3.6 billion of solar panels imported in the first quarter alone. 

This was followed by a record second quarter, with R8.4 billion worth of solar panels imported. 

Demand declined in the third quarter to R4.5 billion. 

Montmasson-Clair estimated that the generation capacity of the solar panel imported in 2023 so far is over 4,500 MW. 

This has greatly reduced the demand for electricity from Eskom, impacting the utility’s revenue and making the South African economy largely immune to the effects of load-shedding.


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