Analysts Predict 85 GW of New Solar This Year, But Market Uncertainties Ahead
New installed solar capacity around the world is on track to hit 85 gigawatts (85 billion watts) in 2017, double the total just three years ago, according to the latest edition of the Global Solar Demand Monitor by GTM Research.
New capacity in a single year increased from 51 to 78 GW between 2015 and 2016, Greentech Media reports. But that result depended in large part on 34 new gigawatts installed in China last year.
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“The performance of China’s solar market exceeded analyst expectations last year,” Greentech reports. “It flipped the global demand story from an expected 7% global PV market contraction in 2017 to 9.4% growth, with a 5.3% compound annual growth rate through 2022.” GTM’s 2017 projection includes 30 new gigawatts in China.
But GTM Research foresees two possible solar growth scenarios for China, depending on the pace at which the country scales back its feed-in tariff program. A shift to competitive auctions in 2018, if China’s National Energy Administration chooses that course, “would likely be made with the intention of capping solar demand, limiting the curtailment of excess solar generation, and addressing the FIT program’s longstanding back payment issues,” Greentech notes. “Auction volumes would be informed by China’s Five-Year Plan, amounting to an estimated 15 to 20 gigawatts of annual demand through 2022.”
That uncertainty “poses a potentially market-destabilizing risk to the entire industry’s supply and demand balance,” writes Senior Editor Julia Pyper.
GTM foresees China, the United States, India, and Japan accounting for 73% of global solar demand this year, with India overtaking Japan as the world’s third-largest market. Growth is expected to slow down in Germany and the UK but ratchet up in Mexico, France, Australia, and parts of the Middle East.
“It’s now possible for many countries to procure solar competitively without having a domestic solar market whatsoever,” said GTM Associate Benjamin Attia. But it remains to be seen “whether that’s sustainable without a domestic industry or a regular cadence of tenders.”