Clean Power Image Credit: China Solar Cells via Wikimedia Commons

Published on January 22nd, 2016 | by Joshua S Hill

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China Overtakes Germany To Become World’s Leading Solar PV Country

January 22nd, 2016 by  

China has overtaken Germany in 2015 in terms of solar PV capacity, according to data from China’s Photovoltaic Industry Association.

Reported by China’s state-run media outlet, Xinhua News, the China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA) reported that China added 15 GW of solar PV capacity during 2015, a 40% increase on 2014 numbers, bringing the country’s total solar PV capacity up to 43 GW.

Meanwhile, according to Germany’s Federal Network Agency and Fraunhofer ISE, Germany only installed 1.3 GW in 2015, reaching roughly 40 GW (reported by way of Reuters).

“Many PV companies began to turn a profit last year thanks to the government’s positive stance on green and innovative energy production and investment,” said CPIA secretary general Wang Bohua, who added that technology research and development, as well as company financing, required more attention, and that 2016 would likely see policies related to PV power grid connection and subsidies.

China is aiming to increase its non-fossil fuel energy capacity to 15% of total primary energy consumption, with the country’s National Energy Administration predicting China’s solar PV capacity will reach 150 GW by 2020.

The PV Market Alliance reported earlier this month that global solar PV installations reached at least 51 GW during 2015, accurately reporting that China had installed 15 GW. At the same time, Tim Buckley from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) reported that China’s electricity demand growth had slowed to only 0.5% in 2014, that coal consumption had dropped 5% and coal imports had dropped by 35%. Part of this drop in coal has been the parallel increase in renewable energy within China, which has resulted in coal-fired power generation declining by an estimated 4% during 2015.

All of which places China on the road to an impressive solar PV industry over the next few years — especially if national policies can be implemented to further shore up the future of the industry.

 
 
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  • Frank

    By my math a 40% annual increase of installs gets you to 164GW total capacity by 2019 and 245GW by 2020(not 150GW). Nice.

  • John Atkins

    The salient business take away remains cost reduction, still the most important reason for businesses to go green. An old (c.2012) AT Kearney study showed that truly Green businesses average 15% greater profitability than non-Green competitors. Companies with lower/no energy costs have a permanent advantage over competitors with ongoing/escalating energy costs.

    Vis á vis China, the US has been at a general cost disadvantage for a long time. Adding a lower energy slice to the loaf forebodes a worsening competitive position for US industries and the balance of trade… unless corporate and political leadership have a big time change of heart.

    • Arne Hauge

      Coal and oil made USA a superpower. It is interesting that USA has an enormous potensial in Wind generated electricity. (And solar).
      The world is changing faster than many apprehend. For a century Norway’s hydropower has provided cheap energy for a variety of metal processing plants, production of fertilizers and more. The cost trend for wind and solar reduces this competitive advantage. The recent articles at this site on Morocco and India gives a good indication of what will happen in a near future.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Norway’s hydropower is likely to become a lot more valuable as fill-in for wind and solar.

        • Arne Hauge

          It could be but for the moment many are afraid that we will give the power away for free and miss the competitive edge that cheap hydropower gives Norway. There is also fear that the consumer must pay the triple amount for electricity. In Norway the price range is 0,03-0,08 $/kWh. Total capacity of 35GW compared to France’s 70 GW of nuclear power indicates that a massive power amount is for industry urpose at a cheap price.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Seems to me to be some pretty strange thinking….

          • Arne Hauge

            I understand this makes you wonder. A proper economic analysis supports your point of view. Truth is that some industry is subsidized because we aren’t selling the power surplus abroad but it still isn’t on the political agenda. The ruling centiment is that Norway with a widespread population should benefit from the advantages that the nature gives and thus equalize the disadvantages (if any). No politicians touch the subject.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I would think that Norway would import wind/solar produced electricity when regional countries have surplus. I.e., the price would be low. They would hold back the hydro they would have normally used for local demand. Then they would export the extra ‘saved’ hydro for a sweet profit.

            I don’t see how this would make domestic retail/industrial electricity more expensive. Perhaps even cheaper, depending on how rates are set in the country.

          • heinbloed

            The grid charges are already higher than the power charges themself.
            Paying twice the grid charge at peak production time and -demand for charging and de-charging (for buying and selling) makes pumped hydro storage in an international market more or less a loss.
            Local storage at the point of use and production would save the grid charges.And taxes.And ….

            Holding back the existing potential is naturally a better concept and is already done so.
            The Scandinavian power market’s back bone is based on the Norwegians ‘holding-back’.

          • Ulenspiegel

            I think you make a mistake: Norway does not have huge amounts of excess hydropower, the annual rainfall sets a hard physical limit. Therefore, Norway can not be a meaningful net exporter.

            On the other hand Norway has a huge storage capacity. Therfore, Norway could store cheap imported electricity and sell it back when the electricity is very expensive in central Europe.

            The business model is making money with zero netexports.

          • heinbloed

            These pumped storage capacities need to be build if to be used.
            With falling power prices and demand all over Europe (minus 2%/a since years) it makes no sense.

            German off-peak baseload futures can be purchased for less than € 20.-/MWh now:

            http://www.eex.com/de/marktdaten/strom/futures/phelix-futures#!/2016/01/25

            And to cover peak loads gas is already cheaper than atom or coal:

            http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-22/europe-s-gas-plants-spark-to-life-with-fuel-at-lowest-since-2010

            Only a legal ban on atom and fossil power would turn pumped hydro storage into a money maker.
            But Norway would not agree on this I guess.

          • Ulenspiegel

            Wrong. The first step is to substitute demnad in Norway. No pumps needed.

          • Arne Hauge

            The reason Norway doesn’t has a surplus of hydropower is that it is utilized for industry (and that Norwegian homes are used to electricity for every purpose). Companies like Norsk Hydro were the first to exploit the waterfalls and there are many communities built around the power plants. (google places like Vemork, Odda, Sunndalsøra and companies like Norsk Hydro and Alcoa Norway). The low price on electricity in Norway makes it profitable to transport bauxit around the world and refine it to Aluminium in Norway before shipping it to continental Europe.
            On the point of using the dams as giant batteries there are build some few pumped storage hydroelectricity plants in Norway. In Norway the main purpose is the seasonal variations. In spring the melting snow floods the dams hence a surplus of cheap electricity till late autumn. Hydro power is a reliable electricity supply all year in Norway.
            There are occasional public debates of how to get the largest profits from our natural resource including ideas that Norwegian hydroplants should store wind energy from other countries like Scotland and Denmark.

          • Foersom

            > including ideas that Norwegian hydroplants should store wind energy from other countries like Scotland and Denmark.

            Should? There is 1.7 GW of HVDC cables between Denmark and Norway, there is already since long time huge power exchange.

          • Ulenspiegel

            Again. The actually available amount of electricity is determined by rain. Even when there is less aluminium production it would be not that impressive. Therefore, Norway should use the electricity in future as in past.

            The only difference would be as first step to substitute domestic generation with imports and to deliver the same amount when the demand is there in central Europe. This is a net export of zero. You get paid for storage.

        • heinbloed

          ” Norway’s hydropower is likely to become a lot more valuable ..”

          Maybe to valuable the government thinks.
          Oil and gas can be sold only subsidized anymore and the REs abroad are dumping the power prices there. Give them cheap hydro as well and no one would like to invest or live in Norway anymore:

          http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL8N14Y1OW20160114

          On the other hand the gas is now cheaper than coal or atom:

          http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-22/europe-s-gas-plants-spark-to-life-with-fuel-at-lowest-since-2010

          • Arne Hauge

            Gas has “always” been a cheaper energy source than oil and nuclear The advantage of oil has been for transport purposes but that will ultimately end as electric vehicles are becoming a realistic option. The green revolution of solar and wind will propably bring the oil industry to an end earlier than many anticipated a few years ago. The shale oil and gas industry in USA has been the most important reason that oil price has fallen so rapidly spurring Saudi to increase their production etc etc.
            I find it interesting that PV in India is cheaper than coal and that wind in Morocco also beats coal.

    • Frank

      The salient big picture takeaway is that we’re moving away from this competitive evolutionary dynamic and heading toward an era of mutually supportive progress with renewable energy and ubiquitous information at it’s center. In other words…..Star Trek.

      Are we really gonna need to “charge” for electricity? For what purpose?

  • Matt

    Way to go! Now how long can they keep up 40% growth in install rate?

    • How long can they keep up an install rate of >15GW/y. 150 GW by 2020 means adding ~100GW in ~4 years or 25GW/y

      There’s no particular reason why growth is necessarily exponential. So why talk about yearly growth as a percentage of installed base?

      • Arne Hauge

        Marocco and India’s latest projects show that wind and solar is cheaper than coal. China has much to gain to replace coal with solar and wind. France with a population of 67 mill has 73GW of nuclear then China with a population of 1 300 mill “should” go for 1300 GW. Adding energy for Electric cars an ideal target is 2500 GW. It doesn’t sond realistic but 100GW is not even close to the limit.

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