China’s National Energy Administration has floated the idea that it might increase its 2020 solar target to at least 210 gigawatts (GW), and potentially as high as 270 GW, in a move which will significantly impact China’s annual capacity additions and, thus, global capacity additions and solar PV manufacturing.
The National Energy Administration (NEA) held an informal gathering last Friday in which it revealed the Chinese Government was considering revising its 13th Five-Year Plan in which it had targeted installing 105 GW worth of solar. Considering that China’s total operating solar PV capacity reached 165 GW at the end of September, the 13th Five-Year Plan’s solar target has been exceeded by at least 50%.
According to two sources with knowledge of the meeting, including Asian solar PV analysts at PV InfoLink and Frank Haugwitz, Director of the Asia Europe Clean Energy (Solar) Advisory (AECEA), the NEA suggested that it could raise its 2020 solar PV goal to at least 210 GW, or as much as 250 GW or 270 GW.
According to PV InfoLink, the Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China Electric Power Planning and Engineering Institute (EPPEI), and other institutions will conduct detailed investigations before a final decision is made.
The final decision will have a tremendous impact not only on China’s solar PV capacity additions for 2019 and 2020, but the world’s solar industry. Specifically, as Frank Haugwitz explained via email, if China reaches 170 GW worth of installed capacity by the end of 2018 and the 13th Five-Year Plan’s solar target is increased to 250 GW or 270 GW, then that would result in potential annual capacity additions of between 40 GW to 50 GW. However, as other analysts have noted, if the NEA’s revision expands the target to only 210 GW, that would open the door for only 20 GW per year.
“Even if the installation goal may increase to 210 GW, it is still far from enough with the current installed capacity which already surpassed 165 GW,” PV InfoLink said in its analysis last week. “The remaining installation will be only about 20-25 GW per year during 2019 – 2020, still not much incentive and support for the Chinese local market demand.
“However, if the final decision for the adjustment of “13th Five-Year Plan” PV installation goal has been lifted to 250GW or more, China will return to install 40GW or more per year during 2019 – 2020, makes China local PV market worth looking forward to.”
“My understanding was to date the official number was 105 GW + 5 GW of CSP,” Frank Haugwitz said via email. “Taking into account 170 GW by Dec 2018, that translates into 40 to 50 GW/annually through 2020. That means we are looking at sound growth till 2020.”
Analysts and commentators alike are unsold on exactly what the future holds for China’s solar industry — though this is completely unsurprising given the wild shifts the country’s industry saw this year, which swung from expectations of 2018 beating out 2017’s record capacity additions to doom and gloom after the country’s Government halted capacity additions and rewrote 2018’s forecasts. However, the script was rewritten again in September when the NEA promised further technological and policy support for the country’s renewable energy technologies in an effort to bring them up to grid price parity.
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