Global Solar Finance Conference: The 5 Emerging Sunrays!

Renewables in Africa

* Mbola tsara manahoana my dear RiA Friend,


Have you ever wondered why we keep saying that the Clean Energy industry, and more precisely Solar, is a young industry?   I scratched my head a few times in the past, coming up with all sorts of reasons but It only hit me this week that there is a very obvious reason why we could say that.  I am sure when I reveal the answer; you will also get your “Aha” moment. I’ll let think about that for a few minutes and we’ll pick up at the end. Deal?

The Global Solar Finance & Investment: Emerging PV Markets Conference (I know, such a long name. Malagasy names feel a lot shorter suddenly J) that happened over 2 days at the start of the week was another sPLeNdiD (dixit Jim Carrey in the Mask) occasion for industry to come together and reflect on the state of the market, with the focus on Emerging Markets.

Besides the nice food and drinks (not to be neglected as they could single-handedly screwed up the whole conference), courtesy of Solar Media and the hotel, we could very clearly extract five powerful conclusions that we have renamed for the occasion “Emerging Sunrays”.


  • Sunray 1: Influence the Manifesto Process

This point was beautifully made and demonstrated by the Keynote speaker of the event, His excellency Mohamed Nasheed, Former President of the Maldives who could draw on his experience as head of state. The industry and the public he said, should influence the political process and intervene as early as when the manifesto is being drafted.   To wait until officials are in power before lobbying them is in fact too late. They could not tender a project they have not pledged at election stage. Whatever the country, in case the leader and his or her government does not particularly deliver policies that support the green economy, the industry should simply organise and carry on with the advocacy.  In fact, President Nasheed provided another magnificent quote that summarized it well: “Forget about today’s leaders, work on tomorrow ones”.  I feel this strong message of hope could particularly resonates across the pond!

“Forget about today’s leaders, work on tomorrow’s ones”. 

President Mohamed Nasheed, Former President of the Maldives


  •  Sunray 2: Oil-rich countries have different motives

The beauty of the term “Emerging” is that it is placing in the same bag all the countries not yet considered developed enough to be part of the privilege club, but rather seen as the rising stars of a never-ending tomorrow. The term could be at times very confusing as countries simply don’t always share the same problematic. Oil-rich countries, like Algeria (with 4GW tender announced) and Iran are targeting the solar solution for completely different reasons than their counterparts, respectively in Africa or Asia. Both these countries are in fact looking to use the clean energy power for internal consumption and prioritise their fossil fuels resources for the export market. No doubt that many other oil-rich countries will adopt the same strategy. Nigeria though, will certainly not apply this approach.

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Figure 1 – Panel Discussion on sub-Saharan Africa Market
  • Sunray 3: Off-grid Market is Not “the Other”

One of the most impactful speaker of the summit was Max Jarett, director-in-charge of the Africa Progress Panel, chaired Mr Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Nobel laureate. Over the course of the panel discussion he participated in, Mr Jarrett perfectly explained why the off-grid market is as important as the grid, and in some cases, its superiority over the traditional and conventional network could be even be argued. President Mahama, the former ruler of Ghana has had first-hand experience of the off-grid power to oust him, after presiding over the DUMSOR (local term to designate blackouts) era.  In another session on off-grid that I personally chaired, the speakers and I reminded people that last year alone, over 8 million off-grid products were sold worldwide, a 15% increase according to REN21 and Gogla. This figure is set to rise even further, after all to meet the SEforALL target of universal electricity access by 2030, an average of 92 million people, equivalent to the Egyptian population, need to gain access to power every year.

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Figure 2 – Panel session on Off-grid Deployment


  • Sunray 4: Solar and storage price drop are the game changer

Gradually but surely, the renewable energy revolution is happening and the momentum is irreversible. the cost of solar generation fell faster in 2016 than experts had expected, and continued downwards in early 2017. New record low bids were set again in 2016, with bidding in some markets below USD 0.03 per kWh, consequently, making solar PV increasingly cost competitive with traditional power sources, with large-scale solar PV outcompeting even new fossil fuel projects in some markets like Chile and Philippines. Storage is regarded as the wholly grail and Lithium-Ion technologies progress and price drop are clearly shifting the whole industry towards the tipping point. Anecdotally, the withdrawal of President Trump from the climate accord seems to have accelerated to move towards clean energy and raise the awareness on the Paris Agreement.  In one of the last panel sessions, the moderator, who was in China at the time the US decision, shared with the audience the exuberant reaction of the Chinese who were literally delighted. Trump, the dealmaker, had scored an own-goal and handed them the leadership of the green planet!


  • Sunray 5: Clean Energy is a young Industry

Yes, it can be overtly proclaimed that the clean energy is a young and dynamic industry and I have the irrefutable evidence. Did you guess which one it is? Forget about new companies being formed, new careers are emerging or even the industry investment representing only 20% of the world global energy investment, it is simply the fact that this industry is incredibly filled with YOUNG people. Period. The dinosaurs are barely in their forties and are all surrounded by people that are from the same generation or younger. Quite a shift from the fossil fuels industry. Let’s be clear, age is not and should not be an issue but this youth factor could not be ignored. Undoubtedly one of the best orators of the conference, a young and promising Filipino solar developer who has impressed with his carefully thought-through presentation, made me smiled when he revealed to me later that he simply forgot to mention his age. With his juvenile face, he was sometimes confused for an 18-year-old young man! Wrong! He was 24! That Old!!


**Veloma People! Make your day green again!



*Mbola tsara manahoana: “Hello” in Malagasy

**Veloma: “Goodbye”” in Malagasy

Malagasy is the national language of Madagascar. Most people in Madagascar speak it as a first language as do some people of Malagasy descent elsewhere like Comoros, Mayotte. According to worldometers, an estimated 25 million people speak Malagasy.



  • Sunray 1: Influence the Manifesto process
  • Sunray 2: Oil-rich countries have different motives
  • Sunray 3: Off-grid Market is not the Other Thing
  • Sunray 4: Solar and storage price drop are the game changer
  • Sunray 5: Clean Energy is a young Industry



  1. Global Solar Finance & Investment: Emerging PV Markets,
  2. REN21 – Renewables 2017 Global Status Report
  3. Global Off-Grid Solar Market Report Semi-Annual Sales and Impact Data, Jan – Jun 2016
  4. Global Off-Grid Solar Market Report Semi-Annual Sales and Impact Data, Jul – Dec 2016



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