Chinese Power Companies Target African Solar Market

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Chinese companies are making a concerted effort to dominate the emerging solar energy market in Africa, a continent where nearly two-thirds of the population still lives off the grid.

At an energy conference in South Africa last week, more than three-fourths of the exhibits were from Chinese vendors selling a range of energy technologies, from small solar panels that can power a single light bulb to larger systems equipped to power entire buildings.

No U.S. or European solar companies attended the conference, reinforcing an impression among African government officials and businessmen that China is poised to become the dominant force in developing Africa’s abundant renewable energy resources. “The country that’s likely to be on the leading edge of all this is not the United States but China,” said Jayendra Naidoo, a South African businessman.

Despite the continent’s vast resources, experts concede that poverty remains a significant challenge for the renewable energy sector, with most Africans unable to afford even the cheapest technologies. Government investment or subsidies would be required to deliver these technologies to rural Africa, experts say.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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