Intersolar China: Ambitious targets and emerging markets


On Tuesday, the first day of the three day conference, news emerged from Beijing that China is considering almost doubling its 2015 solar target, from 21 GW to 40 GW by 2015. According to China’s official news agency Xinhua, which was quoting Meng Xiangan, deputy board chairman of the Chinese Renewable Energy Society, "The exact figure is yet to be finalized."

As Lihui Xu of the analyst firm SGT Research explained at yesterday’s session on solar and low carbon cities – organized jointly by Solar Promotion, the organizer of the worldwide series of Intersolar events, and Joint Forces for Solar, a global initiative spearheaded by EuPD Research – the proposed 40 GW PV target is actually the sum of programs already in place or recently announced.

Providing the foundation are the 21 GW (or 20 GW if the 1 GW of CSP is subtracted) NEA set forth as the country’s 2015 photovoltaic target in its recent 5 year solar energy development plan. On top of this is National Energy Administration (NEA's) 500 MW per province program, which focuses on distributed photovoltaics in specific demonstration zones in each province.

Since China has a total of 31 provinces, autonomous regions and provincial-level cities (like Beijing and Shanghai), the total target for the 500 MW program is about 15 GW. Finally, there is the Golden Sun program, which provides for 3.7 GW of large-scale distributed photovoltaics until the end of the current Five Year Plan.

These are big numbers and the consensus at Intersolar China is that China will surpass Germany in 2012, and Italy in 2011, as the world’s largest photovoltaic market next year (in terms of new installations in 2013). Some participants see 10 GW per year as the likely size of China’s photovoltaic market in coming years which, if realized, would clearly put China in first place among the world’s solar markets.

China’s Ministry of Finance (MoF) provided some additional good news on Intersolar China’s opening day having published the scale of newly approved Golden Sun projects. In this latest round, the MoF has approved projects worth 2.83 GW, which need to be constructed by the end of next year.

Emerging markets

Intersolar China also provided helpful updates on other overseas markets, with Chile emerging as the clear favorite in Central and South America, and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East North Africa region. The fact that the heads of Poland’s and Romania’s photovoltaic associations attended Intersolar China also showed that Europe has its own emerging markets to contribute to what is becoming a very diverse set of solar markets around the world.

Closer to Beijing, Professor Yoshihisa Murasawa, head of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation, welcomed Chinese module and inverter manufacturers to participate in his home market, which is booming after the Fukushima disaster and introduction of a comprehensive photovoltaic FIT this summer. He believes Japan has the potential to reach a cumulative installed photovoltaic capacity of 160 GW by 2030.

His positive words to the largely Chinese audience provided hope that these two Asian countries could emerge as the two dominant photovoltaic powers in Asia (and perhaps the world), thereby creating plenty of potential in trade and other benefits for solar professionals and supporters in both countries.

Overall, Intersolar China clearly benefitted from its Beijing location by bringing in leading officials and representatives from key authorities and associations to present at the conference. Despite this, top-tier module manufacturers did not show up in great numbers.

This does not mean the conference was not well attended. On the contrary, many members of China’s rapidly expanding photovoltaics community came to the event to hear the latest on the central government’s efforts to promote the industry. Now that China’s top leadership is in place, there has been a series of meetings in Beijing and a stream of announcements to boost the industry.

Edited by Becky Beetz.

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