Sun setting on European solar

The rapidly waning influence of European markets on the global solar industry has been illustrated by the latest figures produced by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA).

At the organization’s ninth market workshop in Brussels on Thursday, the EPIA revealed Europe’s share of the world’s newly installed solar capacity last year was just 28%, down from 59% in 2012, as the continent was overtaken by Asia as the world’s leading region for solar.

With China – with 11.3 GW of new solar – and Japan (6.9 GW) driving the Asian powerhouse, the EPIA’s figures showed the amount of solar installed in former world number one Germany fell 57% to 3.3 GW thanks to planned regulatory changes with Italy‘s contraction even more startling – a 70% decline to 1.1 to 1.4 GW.

Those falls came despite another record year for solar with at least 37 GW added worldwide to reach a cumulative 136,7 GW, up 35% on 2012.

Regulators frightening off PV investors

EPIA head of business intelligence Gaëtan Masson blamed ‘harsh’ support reductions, retrospective measures and unplanned regulatory changes for scaring away solar investors in Europe but the figures revealed a stable market outside the two volatile former leading players with non-German and Italian installations flat at around 6 GW.

The EPIA highlighted regulatory changes in Belgium, France and Denmark which saw the trio’s respective installation figures shrink from 600 to 215 MW, 1.1 GW to 613 MW and 300 to 200 MW, respectively.

With installations rocketing in China and Japan, the Asian markets of India – with 1.1 GW – Korea (442 MW) and Thailand (317 MW) also saw solid, if less spectacular, growth.

The U.S. is the world’s third largest market, according to the EPIA, although the market workshop report states both 4.2 GW and 4.8 GW as the figures for 2013, with Canada also expanding with 235 MW of new solar.

With the EPIA figures confirming the trend of Asia expanding as Europe contracts, there was little surprise to hear the organization repeat its oft-heard plea for policy stability across the EU and its neighbours.