Clean Power

Published on November 13th, 2013 | by Silvio Marcacci


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.

  • Stan Hlegeris

    Good grief–even CleanTechnica talks about parity still being off in the future somewhere.

    Here in Queensland if I can pay the full retail price for a PV system and assume that I’ll use it for just ten years and then throw it away my cost per kWh produced is about 10c per kWh.

    There’s a small remaining subsidy which reduces my up-front cost. Remove that effect and my cost of production is still less than 12c.

    Compare that to the regulated retail price of 30.2c per kWh.

    For an end user, solar PV passed parity long ago. Normally it’s only the anti-renewables crowd which talks about parity still being in the future.

    • Bob_Wallace

      If the discussion is about grid parity with no qualifiers then it’s probably about parity with the wholesale grid on the US ‘mainland’. At least on a US based site.

      End-user/retail parity, parity on the Hawaiian/Australian/wherever grid would likely be stated were that the topic/focus.

  • Marion Meads
    • Bob_Wallace


      Looks like increasing demand will tax manufacturing capacity for a while. That’s what some manufacturers have been saying for a while. They’ve been running close to maximum output.

      That will mean a slight increase in system price (~3%) which isn’t likely to slow installation rates. It will probably be offset by declining BoS costs.

      Within a year manufacturing capacity will likely be up and prices back down. And those looking so very, very hard to be unreasonably critical will have to scratch around for a new issue.

      • sean

        increasing prices will encourage further expansion in production

  • Chris Aloise

    FYI – we just received an offer here in Germany from SolarWorld to sell a complete all-in 3 kWp solar kit for Euro 5990.00. Includes mounting, labor, and 19% VAT….and a profit for the seller. That’s Euro 2.00 / Watt installed.

  • jburt56

    Growth needs to be better than this.

  • mds

    I agree, the bar chart predictions are over conservative. arne-nl will be closer to correct imo.

    Also, this is wrong:

    “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.”

    Average cost of panels has been close to $0.70/W as JamesWimberley says, for most of this year, 2013. We already have residential installation costs in Germany and Australia close to $2/W. Same for utility installations in the USA. I think it’s safe to assume $1.50/W-$2.19/W is a conservative prediction for global average total installation costs in 2020. There is no way panel prices will be anywhere near that expensive. I’d expect significantly less than $0.50/W panels before 2020. First Solar and Yingli are just about there now.

    • Bob_Wallace

      By 2020 I suspect the installed range will be $1 to $1.50/W.

      China is already installing utility scale for $1/W. Europe (Italy) is below $1.50/W.

      Six/seven more years? Lowest prices may well be under $1. Panel prices should be well under 50c before then. First Solar has stated that their production cost will be around 35c within 3 years (IIRC).

      • mds

        Right. I was trying to point out we’re already beyond where Navigant says we’ll be by 2020.
        Your numbers for full install and panel cost are far more likely by then.

  • RamboSTiTCH

    Let me tell you a story…

    I am an employee at a business with lots of cash. I recently made a proposal to the owners to install a 50 kW PV system on our perfect south facing roof. The system would offset about 20% of our annual electricity consumption, cost around 90K after rebates and tax credits, and would be paid for by utility savings in less than 10 years. The owners are in their late 40’s early 50’s age group, and I was 28 years old. After getting quotes from a regional installer for the $90,000, the owners put on the brakes.

    Their main question they couldn’t get past was: If this is such a good deal and we would save so much money, why isn’t everyone doing this? There has to be something hidden that isn’t being taken into account.

    The year is drawing to a close and some utility rebates are bound to change in 2014. I am not sure I can rev this engine back up without some local PV installation going up first. The thing that might be holding back the solar industry is conservative owners and an uninformed public waiting to make sure the silver lining stays intact.

    I will keep trying. I have been following this website for years. If I were the owner of the business where I work, this would have been a done deal.

    • Bob_Wallace

      You could point out the large corporations such as Walmart, IKEA etc. that are filling their rooftops with solar. If the big boys have pushed their pencils around and decided the numbers work for them….

      Further, tell then that companies like Walmart started by putting solar on only a few of their buildings. They looked at the numbers they collected from their own systems. And then they expanded.

      Might print this out and drop it on their desk. There might be a name or two they recognize on that list….

      (Sorry, Disqus is having a bad night. The last link should work. The garbage above it I can’t remove.)

    • mds

      50kW for $90k, that’s only $1.80/W, nice!
      Some people can’t believe simple numbers and have to wait to see what others will do. Hard to believe they own and run a business. There will always be some early adopters. The others will follow. You can lead a horse to water…

  • This publication would do pretty good for serving fish & chips.

    Sorry, but the 73 GW barrier will be taken probably in 2015, 2016 at the latest. More than twice as fast as Navigant assumes. I have more trust in Solarbuzz, that predicts 2014 to come in at 50 GW. The market in 2020 will be in the hundreds of GW. The reason is grid parity. That will free PV from government incentives and allow it to become a mass market product (IKEA is starting to sell PV in the UK).

    Hard to believe is the projection that North America a peaks in 2016 and then collapses. Yeah, right.

    Another thing that is highly suspect is the module price projection. They state it as being as low as $ 1 / W in some markets. Yes, that is more than true: consumer prices for bankable modules are below $1 / W in The Netherlands and likely in the rest of Europe. But am I really to believe that we in Europe live in a bubble and that the rest of the world will happily pay double or triple that to bring the global average to $1.50 – $2.19 / W? In 2020? Oh my oh my. Or was there a mixup and were they talking about installed cost instead of module cost?

    • JamesWimberley

      Are Navigant being misquoted? Modules are basically a commodity, with some manufacturers like Sunpower able to charge a premium for quality; cf. fridges. The average fob Shanghai price quoted here ( is 70c/watt.
      Navigant seem to think these prices are unsustainable products of the glut. But first-tier Chinese producers are back making a little money under them, having continued to push down their costs. Jingko’s production costs have been cited as 50c$/w. The current German system cost for residential and small commercial installations <100kw is €1.45/watt, just under $2.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Average panel prices in the US are around 70c/W currently.

      Actually 70.5c for silicon and 60.2 for thin film.

      Europe is doing much, much better than the US with installed prices.

  • JamesWimberley

    In the later period, these are very conservative estimates compared to those of other analysts and a simple extrapolation of the historical trend of 44% growth per annum since 2000. Navigant predict a massive slowing down in solar growth after 2015 and the near-universal breaching of grid parity. Sorry, but that makes no more sense than the EIA’s reference scenario for the USA. What precisely is the constraint they expect?

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