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Manufacturing overcapacity drives down solar PV module prices by almost 50%

3rd May 2024

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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The growth of the photovoltaic (PV or solar) sector worldwide has resulted in a current manufacturing overcapacity, which has driven down the prices of PV modules by almost 50%, solar PV distribution company Solarworld MD Gregor Küpper pointed out late last month. He was addressing a media conference in Cape Town.

Consequently, he cautioned against trying to create solar PV module manufacturing capability in South Africa. “I believe that it would be very difficult for South Africa to compete with China,” he said.

However, the good news was that 90% of the jobs in the solar energy sector were created by the implementation, engineering and servicing of solar PV projects. So, the hostile (from a South African perspective) international solar manufacturing landscape did not hamper the job-creating potential of the country’s solar energy roll-out.

Solar PV was already creating a significant number of direct jobs in South Africa, highlighted ATI Energy MD Kobus Engelbrecht, speaking at the same media conference. It had already greatly increased the demand for electricians, not least in rural areas. That demand was continuing and more and more people were becoming qualified electricians, because of that demand.

As for the indirect jobs created by the solar PV sector – they would be impossible to quantify. “We’re living through a revolution at the moment,” he enthused. The knock-on effects of this energy revolution would be profound; for example, it would reduce South Africa’s need to import diesel fuel, and so release large amounts of currency for other purposes.

However, the sector faced a challenge, noted Dallas Cass of AME Technologies. The standard of education in the country had failed to keep up with new technology. So, the industry itself had to train people, even though they had successfully graduated from formal education.

Another problem, he cited, was that too many solar PV installers, even of quite large projects, still did not meet the required standards, nor observe the regulations. Such installers ignored such critically important issues as fire prevention, fire suppression and other safety matters. “Who will police the industry?” he queried rhetorically. The answer was the insurers. And the insurers were already moving to do so.

When looking for solar PV installers, it was necessary to check on the candidates’ experience and record, advised Küpper. In every growing industry, he observed, there were always people who jumped on the bandwagon.

And the solar PV sector was growing, dramatically, he reported. Globally, total new installed solar PV capacity in 2022 had been 240 GW. For 2023, the figure had been 440 GW – a nearly 100% increase in one year. At the end of last year, total global installed solar PV capacity had been 1.2 Terawatts (1.2-million megawatts).

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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