Against

the backdrop of current developments within the photovoltaic markets,

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including the introduction of a cap in Spain, reduction of the feed-in

tariff in Germany, the largest PV market, as well as the increasing

module surplus, market participants are searching for alternatives for

the future. A great deal of focus is being placed upon the off-grid

segment. Once, the most important market segment, the off-grid market

made up 90 percent of the total installed capacity worldwide. In recent

years, off-grid has become less important. Because of the present

developments within the market, regions like Africa, Asia or Latin

America are returning to the spotlight as areas of high potential.

According to Florian Schmidt, project manager of the study “Global

Off-Grid PV Markets”, published by EuPD Research, the leading market

researcher for solar energy, “The rapid population growth as well as a

high proportion of the rural population with no access to the grid is

causing the attractiveness of the technology to increase.” According to

estimations by Greenpeace, more than two billion people will receive

electricity from off-grid PV systems by 2030.

Study reports the highest development potential in Africa

In 1995, twenty-five percent of the photovoltaic capacity worldwide was

installed in Africa. Yet as the demand for photovoltaic applications

experienced dramatic increases in many parts of the world, it stagnated

in Africa. According to the new EuPD Research study, Africa is still

considered to be the continent with the highest potential for

development for off-grid PV – particularly South Africa, which in 2008

had an installed capacity of approximately 20MW. Small PV plants with a

power output of less than 100W make up more than 50 percent of the

market, according to survey participants. These plants are mainly

employed in rural regions by private customers. Off-grid plants are

also used for industrial applications like machine operation, water

pumps or desalination plants. Systems for public buildings such as

hospitals, schools and tourist facilities, as well as small mobile

systems like radios or mobile phones are also very important. Those who

participated in the study expect a further increase in the near future

particularly within the segment of small plants in the private or

public sector; by 2012 this sector is expected to have a market share

of 75 percent. Moreover small mobile applications as well as PV systems

for infrastructure are likely to gain importance in South Africa.

Overcoming the challenges

The results of the study show that prices for PV modules and PV systems

in Africa, Asia and Latin America clearly exceed those for on-grid

technology in Europe – in Asia and Latin America the price difference

is more than 20 percent. It is caused primarily by difficulties in

distribution in the various regions and the small number of

intermediaries. “The purchase power of the population within the

analyzed countries is clearly less than in industrial nations. In order

to make it possible for the population to use PV plants, several

financing instruments must be made available, from micro credits, to

micro leasing or social programs”, says Florian Schmidt. With the help

of off-grid PV-based electric supply or hybrid systems, the framework

for the sustainable development of the economy could be built up in

disadvantaged regions. What is required is the creative use and

optimization of financing options, an increase in awareness of off-grid

photovoltaics, and also making low-priced, high-quality and

customizable photovoltaic plants available.

About the study

For the new study “Global Off-Grid PV Markets” EuPD Research

(eupd-research.com) identified the key regions relevant to the

technology, and evaluated them using specific criteria including:

purchase power of the population or public promotion for off-grid

photovoltaics. Next, 46 interviews with wholesalers, system providers,

turnkey providers and installers from the key regions Africa, Asia and

Latin America were completed to obtain statements regarding framework

conditions, market segmentation as well as market drivers and

hindrances. Interviews with module and inverter manufacturers of

off-grid PV applications were also conducted. The result is the first

comprehensive primary data-based study of the global markets for

off-grid photovoltaics.

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