Latest trends in digital solutions for solar in Africa

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Solar activities around the world have experienced an ever increasing rate of digitalization over the past years. And we expect this this trend to continue in 2023, in lockstep with the solar sector’s needs. Below is a summarized list of some of the key developments AMMP is witnessing in the space.

Some of the thornier issues are at the start of a project’s lifecycle: in site identification, project development, and financing. We are seeing the emergence of solutions that streamline this, for instance by UniFii for residential and C&I solar installations. This
service simplifies the analysis of the energy consumption profile and automates calculations of energy and financial savings coming from the solar system. This will be an important driver of scale in the sector. At the same time, financing is often tied to
credit risk assessments, which can introduce considerable friction. Tools like Nithio now exist to streamline this for the SHS space with among others tools to standardize credit risk assessment as well as portfolio performance analytics to enable more financing at scale. We anticipate similar tools serving the C&I segment specifically will also enter the scene soon.

Supply chain issues have emerged as another major bottleneck that is likely to persist. While digital tools don’t offer a direct solution to this, they do offer some respite: by making it easier for owners and operators to multi-source from different vendors.
Through vendor-agnostic software, asset portfolios comprising equipment from a multitude of vendors can be run in a unified and standardised way. Along with companies like meteocontrol and QOS, we at AMMP provide the core capabilities to enable this.

A related trend in O&M software is towards increasingly specialised, modular services. While traditionally most providers have focused on end-to-end offerings, we are seeing a growing take-up of dedicated solutions, such as SmartHelio for PV analytics, for batteries, and 60Hertz for maintenance, alongside common tools like Excel or PowerBI for in-house data analytics. We see this as a sign of the sector’s increased maturity.

Interoperability across these services is critical, and we anticipate a growing focus on the APIs thatmake this possible.

Another hallmark of the maturing of African solar companies is the increasing number of players who are capturing economies of scale – whether through mergers and acquisitions, or organic growth. This scale brings about opportunities to leverage data for increased competitiveness. As a baseline, this is likely to involve streamlining complex processes throughout diverse asset portfolios. Yet there are additional opportunities well beyond this: for instance, by analysing KPIs across their asset portfolios, owners and operators can identify best practices, uncover pockets of under-performance, and act on these learnings to elevate all-round results.

Finally, we see ever-faster evolution of regulation across the continent, as governments recognise the potential of renewables to positively reshape the energy landscape. The new business models enabled by this are often coupled with novel digital solutions, which we see proliferating. Just one example is the relatively new ability to connect and match supply and demand through energy wheeling transactions in South Africa, with
companies like Open Access Energy providing the software to facilitate this. Wheeling is expected to boom not only in South Africa as a result of the challenging energy access in the country, but also across Southern and Western Africa with the implementation of full-fledged power pools called SAPP and WAPP respectively.

Across the board, it is heartening to see the important role of digital in driving innovation and supporting the scale-up of renewables throughout Africa!