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IHS Putting A Retroactive Spin On 2014 Solar Predictions

Analysis firms need to be able to point back to months’ and years’ worth of accurate analysis and forecast information if they’re to be taken seriously. So it comes as no surprise when these firms make mention of their expertise and remind readers of their accuracy — regardless of the truth behind the statements.

Such is the case with IHS’ recent statements regarding China’s solar targets for 2014.

In a press release accompanying their fourth quarter predictions global solar predictions, IHS commented on China’s goals for 2014:

Throughout 2014, IHS has expressed doubts over China’s capability to meet the ambitious targets the government set for distributed PV (DPV) in 2014. After a recent adjustment from its government, the country’s overall target of 13 GW is now in line with the IHS forecast.

Having followed global solar predictions for several years now, I was left somewhat confused by this statement, considering what both China and IHS have said in the past.

In fact, for all intents and purposes, it looks as if IHS is spinning the truth a little bit to ensure their reputation is as accurate as possible — the reality be damned.

In their “Solar Market Predictions for 2014” published on December 18, 2013, IHS wrote the following:

In November, China’s National Energy Administration (NEA)—a subsidiary of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC)—announced huge plans for 12 GW of PV projects in 2014. These consist of 8 GW of distributed PV and 4 GW of ground-mount systems. While the announcement is hugely encouraging for both the Chinese and global PV industry, IHS firmly believes that such an ambitious target for distributed PV installations is not achievable, and the reality is that actual totals will fall far short of this goal.

The announced plans are referenced here by NPD Solarbuzz analyst Steven Han, from a November 14 draft of proposed solar installations.

As can be seen, IHS dismissed this target as “not achievable”, adding that the “actual totals will fall far short of this goal.”

To skip from December 2013 to October 2014 would be unfair to IHS, as the intervening months have seen quite a lot of revising and shifting.

In January Bloomberg reported that China’s National Energy Administration were planning to add 10 GW of solar power (and 18 GW of wind) in 2014. Lead solar analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Jenny Chase, commented on the country’s fluctuating targets:

“The National Energy Administration has mentioned a 14 gigawatt target, and actually sent out a letter to provincial authorities with a 12 gigawatt target broken out by province. I don’t think this is exactly a done deal yet. China is playing fast and loose with solar targets at the moment.”

However, despite this, China has maintained a fairly firm stance on a 12 GW target for 2014. In fact, in August Chinese state media announced that the National Energy Administration had revised their target up to 13 GW.

At the end of it all, then, IHS’ claim that “a recent adjustment” by China’s government to the country’s solar target brings it more “in line with the IHS forecast” is only partially true — at best. At no point over the past 12 months has IHS ever allowed for the possibility that China would manage much more than 10 GW in 2014, let alone forecasting anything close to 13 GW.

The reality is, IHS has spent the better part of four quarters now patently opposed to the sheer possibility China would meet their lofty targets for 2014, which leaves me wondering just how reliable the company’s analysis when it comes to China’s solar efforts remain.

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