Photovoltaics market: Europe is in decline, but Asia is booming

Increasingly fewer solar parks are being built in Europe. In Asia, on the other hand, the number of installations is going up.
Photo: dpa

The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) has published its report 'Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics 2014-2018'. Data for the year 2013 clearly shows that the market is shifting from Europe to Asia.

According to the EPIA report, 2013 was a good year for the global photovoltaics industry. The global increase in capacity in 2011 and 2012 was approximately 30 GW per year, but newly installed capacity climbed to 34.8 GW last year. This brings the total installed capacity worldwide to 138.9 GW.

In contrast to the global trend, the European market has declined further. Only 11 GW of new PV was connected to the grid in 2013. In 2012 that number was 17.7 GW, and in 2011 it was even as high as 22.4 GW. This decline was mainly caused by the significant decrease in the German PV market. Nevertheless, Germany still had the highest number of new installations, with a capacity of 3.3 GW. The decline of the German market is a good example of how the photovoltaics market is still highly dependent on subsidies and policy issues.

While 29% of overall additional global capacity was installed in Europe, China alone connected 11.3 GW of new PV plants to the grid and installed additional off-grid PV systems with a capacity of 500 MW. This made China the top market in the world in 2013.

The new market leader is Asia. China and Japan in particular had a high number of new installations. Japan installed 6.9 GW of new PV systems in 2013, which is roughly 60% of China's capacity.

In most European markets, photovoltaics is becoming increasingly competitive compared to other energy sources and getting closer to 'dynamic grid parity'. A closer look at PV capacity per inhabitant shows that electricity from PV systems is not as expensive as is often thought. Greece is in fourth place among European countries, with 229 W per inhabitant. This is more than half of Germany's capacity per person, which is at 436 W. Surprisingly, the sunny country Turkey is one of the countries with the lowest capacity per person, with only 0.2 W per inhabitant. However, this could change rapidly in the future, as the market for large scale PV projects is just starting to gain momentum (See Sun & Wind Energy 3/2014, p. 32

For the third year in a row in 2013, PV was one of the two sources of electricity most frequently installed in the EU. Wind energy exceeded PV in 2013 by several hundred MW. PV now covers 3% of electricity demand and 6% of peak electricity demand in Europe.

The complete study 'Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics 2014-2018' is available online.

Tanja Peschel

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