IHS, a market research group, has updated its forecast for China and estimated that China will install about 13.5 GW of solar PV this year. Approximately 4 GW of that will be distributed PV, based on updated projections made after a poor first quarter in this sector. (For the sake of comparison, Japan still has less than 10 GW of solar, even with an aggressive focus on growing it, and no other country was close to these totals in 2013.)
IHS analyst Ash Sharma said, “…there are concerns over China’s ability to install distributed PV and so far this year, demand has been weak in China. However we do still expect around 4 GW of distributed PV to be installed this year and total installations to reach approximately 13.5 GW.”
Sharma is the Senior Research Director at the IHS PV Research Group. IHS is listed in the top ten companies for scientific, medical, technical and medical information.
China has a human population of about 1.3 billion. Chipping away very gradually with distributed, rooftop solar installations might seem an impossible task, but China has already done fairly well with solar water heater penetration, so there is some precedent. Also, the national government there has set a goal of 40 GW of solar PV by 2015.
Although this effort may seem indicative of a commitment to clean energy, it should be noted that China is also expanding coal power production. “China approved the construction of more than 100 million tonnes of new coal production capacity in 2013 — six times more than a year earlier and equal to 10 percent of U.S. annual usage — flying in the face of plans to tackle choking air pollution,” David Stanway writes.
“The scale of the increase, which only includes major mines, reflects Beijing’s aim to put 860 million tonnes of new coal production capacity into operation over the five years to 2015, more than the entire annual output of India.”
Besides creating a great deal of noxious air pollution, some of the coal plants in China are slated to be constructed in water-stressed areas, said the World Resources Institute.
Economic growth seems to be one of the main goals and expectations of modern societies, and nearly at any cost. For example, research found that 1.2 million Chinese deaths were linked to outdoor air pollution in 2010. So, though there may be some talk of supporting clean energy for the sake of public health, large investments in coal-based power seem to indicate a contradiction at the policy level.
Economically, growth has slowed somewhat in China, sparking some concern a stimulus package might be needed. Another important factor in the overall national equation is the fact that the human population in China is still growing and it might not peak until 2030.
Images: Yuyuan garden at night, traditional shopping area in Shanghai, China and Chinese solar manufacturing facility by Yuangeng Zhang via Shutterstock.