A regime in the making? Examining the geographies of solar PV electricity in Southern Africa

Kirshner, Joshua; Baker, Lucy; Smith, Adrian and Bulkeley, Harriet (2019). A regime in the making? Examining the geographies of solar PV electricity in Southern Africa. Geoforum, 103 pp. 114–125.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.04.013


The rapid global deployment of solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies since the early 2000s has attracted sustained attention. Solar PV has become an increasingly established, widespread and flexible form of electricity generation. In the research language of socio-technical or energy transitions, solar PV can reasonably be viewed as acquiring the characteristics of a 'socio-technical regime.' Such regimes are found where a co-evolving set of social and technical developments have built sufficient momentum for a particular technology to become accepted as an established part of the energy provision system. As solar PV becomes integrated into the project of providing secure, affordable and sustainable energy for development, this momentum is now spreading across sub-Saharan Africa.

In this article, we examine the emergence and adoption of solar PV in Mozambique and South Africa. While solar PV has gained ground in both cases, it has done so in different ways and with varying consequences. Our analysis suggests that even as niche technologies reach maturity and transcend the contexts from which they have emerged, they remain constituted through multiple sets of relations that are continually remade, such that the geographies, histories and politics of transitions are an ongoing project. Such a perspective, drawing on energy geographies and landscape studies, can enrich the sustainability transitions literature, enhancing our understanding of different ways of developing and adopting solar PV in particular places.

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