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GTM Research: solar PV installations up 34% in 2015

25 Jan 2016

Record annual installations of 59GW will rise again to 64GW this year, according to preliminary figures from the analyst company.

US-based analyst company Greentech Media Research (GTM Research) reckons that a record 59 GW of solar PV was installed globally last year, representing a 34 per cent increase over the 2014 total – which was itself a record.

The records are set to keep falling this year, with another 64 GW expected to be added to grids globally. That would bring the cumulative total to 321 GW.

GTM Research points out that the steep rise in PV build-out – particularly in the closing months of 2015 – remains closely tied to government subsidization for now:

“The fourth quarter of 2015 showed that global PV demand is very much at the mercy of government support, which can often be unpredictable and idiosyncratic, leading to often negative but sometimes positive outcomes,” said Mohit Anand, a senior solar analyst at the Boston firm.

ITC extension effect
With much of the global growth in PV deployments being driven by the US and Chinese markets recently, GTM Research highlighted the impact that the extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) in the US is set to have.

Its analyst team believes that the US share of anticipated global PV demand between 2015 and 2020 has increased from an average of 10 per cent to 15 per cent, purely because of that extension. This is despite the substantial increase in demand expected for the Asia-Pacific region, excluding China, in 2016 and beyond.

On the other hand, cuts to feed-in tariffs in Japan, the UK – which has led European deployments in the past couple of years - and China have tempered expectations somewhat.

Nevertheless, GTM Research expects 64 GW of solar PV to be installed globally in 2016, with the US and China again leading the way. Emerging markets will play a prominent role, adds the analyst company. It says: “India will become more established as it becomes a reliable multi-gigawatt market this year, and Brazil and Mexico will be tested for their ability to meet their ambitions with actual project execution.”

Other, currently much smaller, markets including the Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Uruguay, Guatemala and Panama will attempt to break through the 100 MW level, adds GTM.

“We also have to keep in mind the importance of COP21 [the recent United Nations conference on climate change held in Paris] for the diversification of global markets for PV, especially across emerging markets in Asia, Latin America and Africa,” said Anand. “Many of those countries have pledged substantial goals for deploying renewables and mitigating climate change, and PV is seen as a quick, cost-effective and scalable opportunity within that.”

Cumulative total to hit 321GW this year
If GTM’s forecast for 2016 proves correct, it will mean that cumulative installations of PV will total 321 GW by the end of the year.

Last year the Solar Power Europe organization (previously the European Photovoltaic Industries Association, EPIA), another well respected forecaster, said that uncertainty over the future of US federal tax breaks and other markets meant that the cumulative total could be anywhere between 400 GW and 540 GW by the end of the decade.

The GTM figures suggest that the lower end of that forecast should be exceeded at least two years earlier than that, with the US analyst company now expecting cumulative installations to top 700 GW by the end of 2020.

In comparison, the total electricity generating capacity of the US stood at just over 1000 GW in 2011, according to figures from the US Energy Information Administration.

Meanwhile another analyst company, this time Navigant Consulting, has predicted that revenues from solar PV installations will total more than $1.2 trillion over the coming decade.

In Navigant's Distributed Solar PV report, its analysts argue that new business models like solar leases, green bonds, and yield companies, or “yieldcos”, have reduced the barriers around customer adoption of solar PV systems and increased the potential for profits.

“These business model innovations will continue to further drive the industry in the coming years when incentives are scaled back in most major markets,” they state, adding that the entire electric power industry is now evolving into a model with much greater diversity, both in terms of electricity generation and in the ownership of generation assets. “Solar PV is one technology at the head of this change,” Navigant reports.

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