Welcome to SolarPower Europe’s Global Market Outlook 2017 – 2021. This Global Market Outlook is special for various reasons: in response to the rapid developments in the solar sector it contains much more information than last year’s edition. It was also fully produced in-house by our newly established market intelligence team, who will develop more reports going forward. This year we begin a cooperation with the Global Solar Council for this report, and our sister organisation, the China Photovoltaic Industry Association, has contributed a chapter of the world’s largest solar market – China.
never before have we seen more solar power being installed in a single year than in 2016. The global solar PV market grew much more than expected – by 50% to 76.6 GW year-on-year. For the first time, solar le behind its renewable energy peer, wind, in terms of annual installations. Together with wind, solar contributed over three quarters of power capacity installations in the European Union last year. All renewables added more than half of new global power generation capacities for the second year in a row.
When looking at cost, solar continues to expands its leadership role. In 2016, another world-record low solar power supply contract was awarded in the United Arab Emirates for 24.2 USD/MW (or 2.4 US cents/kWh). Today, utility-scale solar is generally already cheaper than new combined cycle gas turbines, coal and nuclear power plants, while roo op solar is usually cheaper than grid-power as long as this is not subsidised.
Solar power has also become a job machine in countries that have embraced the technology. In the US, which doubled annual PV installations last year, one in 50 new jobs in 2016 was created in the solar sector.
While all these solar growth numbers sound very impressive, the fact is that solar still has a long way to go to fully tap its potential. The 306.5 GW of grid-connected PV capacity installed end of 2016 generated around 2% of the world’s electricity demand. From today’s perspective, we expect total global installed PV capacity to exceed 400 GW in 2018, 500 GW in 2019, 600 GW in 2020 and 700 GW in 2021. If policy makers get things right by addressing the needs for a smooth energy transition, such as through establishing the right governance, market design and renewable energy frameworks, solar demand could increase much faster, and touch nearly 1 TW of total generation capacity in 2021.
The energy transition towards renewables doesn’t have to be costly today. While about 8% renewables generation capacity was added last year (which is obviously too low), investment dropped by 23%, according to the recent United nations Environment Programme (UnEP) “More Bang for the Buck” report. That means, solar and renewables are doing the right thing – companies are quickly reducing cost for their products. A “de-investment” in renewables is, however, the wrong message to potential investors. With the 1.5°C Paris goal requiring gigantic efforts, it needs much more money to be directed into renewables. China is clearly showing the way – by more than doubling its solar capacity additions in 2016, reaching an annual global market share of over 45%.
Indeed, there are several obstacles that need to be overcome for solar to be able to move into the fast lane. That’s why SolarPower Europe has looked at challenges and solutions for 10 Topics & Trends that will be key for a rapid expansion of solar in the coming years. A large part of this chapter’s content has come from our Task Forces, where we work with our members on business models and policy recommendations in the fields of Trade, Storage, Digitalisation, Tenders, O&M, and Corporate Sourcing.
Click here for the report 2017 global solar report