PV inverter industry must focus on emerging markets

The global photovoltaic inverter market is expected to reach 32 GW in 2012, according to IMS Research’s latest report, The World Market for PV Inverters, thus representing growth of 23 percent on 2011. However, while positive, revenues are only predicted to increase by three percent to US$7 billion – nevertheless a record – on the back of continued pricing declines.

Shipments meanwhile, are expected to increase by almost 25 percent, says the U.K.-based company, thus returning to health following a disappointing year in 2011, where shipments grew over 12 percent to reach 27 GW, but revenues were found to have "marginally" shrunk.

Commenting, director of the IMS Research PV practice, Ash Sharma, states, "In 2012, suppliers will continue to see high shipment growth but may struggle to see top- and bottom-line growth." He adds, "Inverter prices will see another double-digit drop in 2012, partly driven by product mix change, and shifts in demand to lower cost countries, but also standard price erosion as major markets stagnate."

Despite this, the market is predicted to grow going forward, with revenues expected to exceed $9 billion in 2016 and shipments forecast to grow at a double digit rate.

However, IMS Research believes Europe’s photovoltaic inverter market share will continue to decrease on the back of declining installations in Germany and Italy. To balance this, the company says manufacturers must look to emerging markets to secure future growth.

"Europe’s share of PV inverter shipments and revenues was over 80 percent in 2010; however we forecast this to fall to less than 40 percent in 2016 and revenues not to return to 2011 levels in the next five years. This in itself presents a huge challenge to suppliers, which are mainly European, with the majority of their facilities and customers located in that region," explains Sharma.

Looking at the manufacturers, IMS Research says that SMA Solar Technology continues to hold onto its number one position, despite having lost some market share. It is followed by Power-One, Kaco, Fronius and RefuSOL.

Interestingly, however, the company says the biggest market share gains in 2011 were made by companies outside of the top 10. This, it says, shows "that the industry may not be consolidating just yet". "Start-ups Enphase Energy and SolarEdge were two of the biggest market share gainers in 2011, whilst we also saw considerable gains from Advanced Energy and Emerson," concludes Sharma.