Solar energy analysts at IHS Markit have identified the Top Solar Trends in 2019, including globalization, photovoltaics+storage, panel evolution, China and other hot spots.
The bottom line is that global PV installations will return to double-digit growth this year, with record volumes to be installed in the fourth quarter of 2019, they reckon. “Under current projections, a record 34 gigawatts of global PV installations will be completed in the fourth quarter of 2019 alone, exceeding the current quarterly installation record of 28 GW set in the final quarter of 2018, say Edurne Zoco, IHS Markit Energy Technology director, and Sam Wilkinson, associate director.
The two researchers have pegged the following as their top trends for the PV industry in 2019:
- Global PV installations will return to double-digit growth.
- European PV demand will return to 2012 levels – corporate PPAs play a growing role.
- Revamping and repowering of PV plants will grow in importance as the installed base in Europe ages.
- China’s policy decisions will continue to define global dynamics.
- More than 500 megawatt hours (MWh) of batteries will be deployed in utility-scale solar plants in North America.
- Diversification of PV inverter suppliers to continue as they continue to battle against stagnating revenues
- The race for the 400 Watt (W) PV module will heat up as high efficiency products gain share of the market
- There will be 11 million new connections to the Internet of Energy from solar systems in 2019
Pricing is the bottom line for solar growth. “This widespread growth has been aided by declining prices for PV technology, with average PV module prices falling 32 percent, and average PV inverter prices falling by 18 percent, in the past two years,” Zoco and Wilkinson say.
Another key to the ongoing growth expected its the more active role of global corporations and investors that are playing an increasingly important role in renewables, say the duo. “Attracted by the growing opportunity and attractive returns, as well as pressure to increase the sustainability these companies are investing into the renewables industry and this will only continue to grow in coming years, with solar is increasingly competitive with conventional sources of power generation,” they say.
Another factor in growth is that solar and other renewables are playing a key part in the decentralization and digitalization of the power system, or the so-called “Energy Transition,” which is now on the agenda of nearly all companies, governments, and institutions, Zoco and Wilkinson say. “Distributed generation now plays a very significant part in the overall power mix and addressing the challenges that come with this will be at the core of our research this year.”
Globalization is perhaps the single strongest reason that solar will boom this year, once again. “This year will be the first year since 2011 that annual photovoltaic (PV) installations will grow in all six global regions,” says Zoco and Wilkinson. “Europe, the Middle East, North America, South and Central America, Africa and Asia-Pacific will all contribute to 18 percent year-on-year growth,” they say.
Globalization also is driven by select country markets. “A return to much stronger global growth in 2019 will occur, thanks to increases in a wide range of markets. In fact, nearly ninety countries will increase annual PV installations this year, with nine of them forecast to grow by more than 500 megawatts, compared to 2018,” the team says.
China is the solar juggernaut. “Even as many regional markets contribute to growth, the evolution of the PV market in China —the world’s largest — will yet another year determine the final installation levels for 2019,” they point out.
Spain will join the gigawatt-solar country ranks this year. “The fact that Spain will be the fastest growing market in 2019, in terms of the absolute increase in annual installations, is clear evidence that lower prices are igniting additional demand. A large pipeline of projects will be built this year, the majority of which will compete with wholesale electricity prices, supported by the security of guaranteed minimum prices via Government tenders,” Zoco and Wilkinson say.
“As a result, Spain will return to being a “gigawatt- market” for the first time since 2008, when a highly generous, short-lived feed-in tariff (FiT) scheme enabled the country to dominate the global market,” the two say.
Policy, when positive, can spur growth; when it is negative — as the future of the US ITC uncertainty was — it can also stymie growth. “The first year global PV installations grew at only single-digit levels was 2018. This slower growth was largely caused by declining demand in two of the three top markets: China and the United States. Expected and unexpected policy changes, and uncertainty around trade disputes, led to softer demand,” the two researchers say.