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Rich sunshine is a key driver making solar panels one of the most popular types of renewable energy used by African households today. For households solar systems can provide enough electricity for lighting or powering small appliances such as radio or television. As solar energy can be scaled down to small modules it can provide solutions for off the grid electrification bearing great promise for rural populations in Africa. The amount of electricity produced by solar technology in Africa has increased sevenfold over 2005-2010 indicating the market is approaching maturity  in a timeframe that can bring substantial relief to  energy poverty.Solar panel

For those who are not connected to the grid solar power is a critical response that can alleviate energy poverty. As nearly 550 million people have no access to  electrification services solar power bears great promise for improved access to lighting, cooking, better health care, telecommunications and greater employment opportunities. Moreover solar lighting would enable households to migrate away from kerosene lamps and avoid noxious indoor pollution.  

A key allowing the scaling up of renewable solar energy are cost reductions from learning associated to increasing use of the technology. For each doubling in the capacity of solar energy technology installed a decrease of costs of 18% occurs creating conditions for sustained popularity of this energy resource. In South Africa for instance solar photovoltaic (PV) generation is expected to be fully competitive with conventional coal-fired generation up to 2014.

In contrast to solar panels concentrated solar power (CSP) is a technology used to harvest sunlight in large scale utilities. An arrangement of reflective surfaces working as mirrors capture the sun to heat up a fluid turning it into steam. The steam then drives a turbine producing electricity. New interest in CSP projects will increase body of knowledge that can help stepping up the adoption of concentrated solar power.  Based in North Africa the DESERTEC Intiative proposes to invest in the generation, transmission of  new solar PV and concentrated solar power capacity. The project aims to export significant amounts of energy via high voltage direct lines undersea Europe helping Africa become a regional force in renewable energy production.

Solar photovoltaic panels as well as concentrated solar power open up new prospects for expanding energy supply in Africa but their effective scaling up  depends on overcoming a series of barriers. Difficult access to grid agreements for investors, coupled with long procedures for new power generation projects and fossil fuel subsidies are some of the challenges facing investors in solar energy generation.  For the effective deployment of solar technologies practical finance tools and an enabling investment framework for renewables can help unlock opportunities for new pockets of finance to deliver clean energy to Africa. 

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