The global solar PV market is expected to bounce back from slower growth in 2018 with a return to form in 2019 that will see double-digit growth in the range of 25% and total solar installations nearing 130 gigawatts (GW), according to analysts IHS Markit.
Global business information provider IHS Markit published its latest PV Installations Tracker last week which predicts that the global solar PV market will see growth of 25% in 2019 and install a total of 129 GW worth of new solar capacity. This is up slightly on the 123 GW the company predicted would be installed in 2019 back at the end of December. The growth is expected to be driven from markets outside of China, which IHS Markit predicts will increase their share by 43%. Conversely, IHS Markit expects China’s growth to only increase by 2% in 2019 after reaching 45 GW in 2018 — the majority of which will come in the second half of the year.
“Right now, the outlook for China remains highly uncertain, as the new support scheme for PV is yet to be announced,” said Josefin Berg, research and analysis manager, IHS Markit. “Plans to focus policy more on unsubsidized PV systems could slow near-term deployment, unless strict construction deadlines are imposed to spur 2019 demand.”
IHS Markit expects that the United States will overtake India in 2019 as the world’s second-largest solar PV market, driven by the imminent conclusion of the country’s 30% Investment Tax Credit which expires at the end of the year, meaning many projects will rush to completion. However, this doesn’t mean that the US solar industry will fall off a cliff in 2020, as the safe harbor provisions introduced in 2018 — which require a 5% investment to be made by the end of 2019 to enjoy the full ITC rate — will shift projected installations out beyond 2019. “Increasing project development activity shows that the years after 2019 will be booming,” Berg said.
In India, however, the drive towards lower tender prices at a time when solar components have become more costly through the country’s safeguard duties has delayed several tenders and could continue to muddle the Indian solar PV market moving forward.
The European solar market is expected to see continued strong growth in 2019 after the conclusion of the region’s minimum import price on modules helped push 2018 growth to 23%, with IHS Markit expecting 2019 will see 19 GW installed, well up from the 12 GW installed in 2018.
It’s worth noting that there remains no consensus on just how much solar was installed in 2018. In late-January, Bloomberg New Energy Finance head of solar Jenny Chase declared that 2018 solar installations had breached the 100 GW barrier and would end up at around 109 GW. Conversely, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables predictedthat solar would only break through the 100 GW barrier in 2019 with an expected 103 GW. In early-March, SolarPower Europe — the region’s member-led solar trade association — announced that global solar installations reached 104.1 GW, while a month later, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) concluded that only 94 GW of solar was installed in 2018.
I reached out to IHS Markit, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and Wood Mackenzie, as to whether any of their figures had been updated and to comment on the most recent figures which were published by IRENA.
“We have about 107GW for 2018 and 125GW for 2019, though the single most determinating factor for 2019 is what China does,” explained Bloomberg’s Head of Solar Analysis, Jenny Chase. “We are still waiting for an important policy announcement there.” Chase also believes IRENA’s numbers are incorrect, but that IRENA may be publishing AC capacity, as compared to DC capacity (“which BNEF strongly prefers because it tells you more about capacity factor, total capex, land use and total module demand”).
Wood Mackenzie’s Senior Analyst Tom Heggarty doubled down on a sub-100 GW number, and unsurprisingly was not willing to comment on “forecasts produced by any other organisations. Our revised view,” Heggarty continued, “is that the global solar PV market in 2018 saw installations of 97.3 GW.” Meanwhile, IHS Markit’s Lee Graham confirmed his company had recorded global solar installations of 103 GW in 2018.
In the long run, the specific number doesn’t matter as much as the communal agreement that there was around 100 GW of solar installed in 2018, down slightly on expectations, but that 2019 will see solar rebound strongly.