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Published on November 13th, 2013 | by Silvio Marcacci

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Global Solar PV Installations Will Double, Hit Grid Parity By 2020

November 13th, 2013 by  


Continually declining solar photovoltaic (PV) prices will continue to power an international market surge, with annual installations doubling by 2020 en route to grid parity around the world.

This bright outlook shines through Navigant Research’s most recent Solar PV Market Forecasts and estimates solar PV will be cost-competitive with retail electricity prices without subsidies in nearly every electricity market by 2017.

Even though each international energy market presents different conditions for solar PV’s growth, Navigant expects overall solar energy costs  to continue falling while overall installations and industry revenue keep climbing.

Low Solar PV Costs Unlock Grid Parity

Solar PV panel oversupply and government incentives have combined to send costs spiraling down to often unsustainable levels in recent years, sparking market consolidations and bankruptcy. According to Navigant, module costs fell from $4 per watt in 2006 to as little as $1 per watt in some markets by 2012, and will continue declining between 3%-8% per year to reach a global average of $1.50-$2.19 per watt by 2020.

This dramatic price decline has also made solar PV appealing to developing nations and an entire new class of homeowners and businesses. Under Navigant’s outlook, new annual installations of solar PV will double from 35.9 gigawatts (GW) new capacity in 2013 to 73.4GW in 2020.

“Lower prices for solar PV modules are opening up new markets for distributed PV, while also helping the technology reach grid parity more quickly in high-cost retail electricity markets,” said Dexter Gauntlett, Navigant analyst.

New Markets, New Revenue, Surprising Trends

And all those new installations will also bring much more revenue, often by new markets. Navigant estimates annual worldwide solar PV revenue will pass $134 billion by 2020, led by growth in the Asia-Pacific region. Of course, China will dominate worldwide growth, and is expected to pass 100GW installed solar PV capacity by 2020.

But if China’s solar surge is predictable, the type of installations is not. Distributed generation, while an exciting prospect for resiliency, is expected to account to less than half of all installations in 2014 and non-distributed systems (greater than 1 megawatt in size) will represent more than half the worldwide market through 2020.

The shift away from non-distributed generation is somewhat surprising, considering major markets like Germany and China are retooling their financial incentives toward on-site installations while solar leasing companies like SolarCity and SunRun offer homeowners the option for rooftop solar with little or no upfront investment and many states tweak policies to free the grid for small-scale solar systems.

But perhaps this shift is best seen in context compared to the total growth of large systems. Navigant previously estimated distributed solar installations would reach $118 billion by 2018 – meaning small solar PV will keep growing, just not as fast.


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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.



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