According to the World Resources Institute report, rooftop solar panels are the answer to the electricity needs of developing economies.

They turn solar energy into electricity have the most potential among renewable energies to supply power to the underserved in cities in emerging economies, says the latest report.

The report, ‘Powering Cities in the Global South’, says that solar panels are more effective at increasing access to power for poor urban households than biomass heating and cooling, micro-grids or wind turbines.

Moreover, it is found that rooftop solar panels are now the most common and popular form of distributed renewable energy source in the emerging world.

Though the energy generated by solar photovoltaic systems come closest to the matching demand for electricity generally observed in cities.

“When people are underserved in terms of electricity from the grid, they tend to turn to diesel generators,” said Ajay Mathur, Director General of The Energy and Resources Institute.

“There are a large number of interventions that have been tried out in different parts of the world. The willingness and ability of people, particularly the underserved, to pay for these interventions is at the heart of what will work.”


Rooftop solar panels – Addressing the up-front cost of solar installation

The report says “willingness-to-pay” issues must first be resolved in order to address the up-front costs of rooftop solar panels to consumers.

Blended finance, social impact and green bonds are all cited as ways to scale the technology, though one of the authors of the report told Cities Today it is consumer finance models emerging in Africa that are laying the path to greater access.

Michael Westphal, Senior Associate for Sustainable Finance at the institute and contributing author to the report, said that the proliferation of consumer finance models such as PayGo show more households are becoming capable of paying for these renewables.

He added that in some rural areas of the continent, the number of households using these services have doubled in the space of just one year.

“You have an exponential decrease in the cost of solar panels, and then this proliferation of these finance models,” he said. “So we think solar panels will become increasingly affordable.”

Rooftop Solar Panels

Michael Westphal, Senior Associate for Sustainable Finance at the World Resource Institute and author on the report


No grid connection required for rooftop solar PV System

The report further states that as the cost of grid electricity rises for customers, the cost for rooftop solar PV System falls, making it an appealing option.

One of the possible reasons is that commercial and residential consumers using solar panels do not require grid connection.

In countries like China and India, the average electricity cost for residential rooftop solar panels is in line with the cost of natural gas-powered generation.

The utility-scale solar power has reached grid parity said World Resources Institute report.

As a result, it is available at competitive and inexpensive prices as compared to retail electricity in the markets globally.

In fact, generous government policies, in 12 Indian states, enable the retail costs for rooftop solar panels to reach the same parity for residential and commercial electricity users.

Anton Cartwright, researcher for the Mistra Urban Futures Green Economy Project at the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town, told Cities Today he believes that lack of financing for public sector energy remains a critical barrier to successfully scaled solar panel technology in cities.

He said Africa is currently urbanising at levels of household income below peer developing regions such as Latin America. This means energy supply technologies such as solar plants won’t be easily financed without innovative solutions.

“There are financial solutions that can be tailored if the particular needs of energy users is understood, if the affordability of those end users is understood, and if the products and service delivery package is design backwards from that need,” he said.

“If one is going to discover both the technology and financial package, then those things need to happen simultaneously at the same pace.”

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