pv magazine weekly news round-up: Aug 22-29


Every Friday, pv magazine will round up the biggest and best stories from the past week and package them here in one easily digestible news nugget. So kick back, fire up the coffee machine and get up to speed with the latest comings and goings in the global PV industry.

What we learned this week

This time last week we had no idea that the world may fall tantalizingly short of its climate change objectives – all because renewable energy deployment will begin to slow noticeably after 2014.

Wait. That cannot be right, can it? Because we also learned this week that solar power is set to become energy's top dog by 2025, kicking big coal-fired power plants to the kerb in the process.

These two, mildly conflicting reports from the International Energy Agency and UBS Bank respectively served to shine a light on just how difficult it is to make predictions and projections when it comes to solar's future.

The IEA Report, presented in Paris on August 28, suggests that the expansion of renewable energy – so impressive in 2013 and enjoying good growth this year – is likely to slow over the next five years. The caveat – and it is a big one – is that the eradication of policy uncertainty will reverse this trend.

Renewable energy will not reach its climate change targets unless governments the world over can agree on smooth support policies that do not spook investors. "Just as renewables are becoming a cost-competitive option in an increasing number of cases, policy and regulatory uncertainty is rising in some key market," said IEA executive director, Maria van der Hoeven. "This stems from concerns about the costs of deploying renewables."

To arrest this inevitable decline, the report notes, governments must "distinguish more clearly between the past, present and future, as costs are falling over time, and many renewables no longer need incentive levels".

That, in a nutshell, is what the world's largest private bank – UBS – told its clients this week. In a surprisingly pro-solar report, the bank argued the case for solar, forecasting a tipping point “by 2025” whereby a perfect solar storm will gather speed, gusting away coal-fired power plants in the process, and setting in motion an unstoppable race to democratize energy… in Europe at least.

"By 2025, everybody will be able to produce and store power," read the report. "And it will be green and cost-competitive, ie, not more expensive or even cheaper than buying power from utilities." The report even went so far as to urge its wealthy client base to "join the revolution", stopping tantalizingly short of calling it a "solar revolution". Either way, the writing appears to be on the wall.

For something a little more off-the-wall, we turn our attention to Scotland. During the Edinburgh International Book Festival, a lively debate between the merits of solar Vs fracking sparked up and – would ye believe it – solar won the day. In Scotland. Rainy, cloudy Scotland.

"Due to Scottish weather, solar energy is something Scottish policy makers didn’t pay adequate attention to in the past, and that is changing now," Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, told pv magazine.

"Because solar is doing so well in England and Germany, and the price of solar modules has been reduced significantly, policy makers and the public in Scotland have started to realize the great potential of this technology."

Encouraging words that may prove doubly prescient if Scotland decides to go it alone and vote to break away from the U.K. next month. The Scots go to the polls on September 18 and, as we have seen with solar energy, predicting what the future might hold is a rather onerous task.

Nothing to stop solar's growth… or is there?

Lux Research were bold enough this week to predict that the global solar PV market will reach 65 GW annual installions by 2019, according to the analysts' latest report. Such growth would represent a 75% market increase on today’s figures, with China leading the way each year but rapid growth on the cards for the Americas, which could be on course for an average compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.3%

Also this week pv magazine reported that there is no global solar panel shortage on the horizon, despite what other media outlets reported earlier in the week.

Stefan de Haan of IHS told us that while the cell and solar module glut had certainly dried up, current capacity is still sufficient to serve a market of 45.5 GW. "In 2014, the market is pretty balanced," de Haan said. "As installation markets are continuing to grow, and there have been no major capacity expansions last year, which helped the supply demand gap to close."

With utilization rates rising, capital expenditure increasing and demand for solar spreading to all four corners of the world, the market appears to be in pretty good shape as the second half of the year kicks into gear. John Perlin, author of Let it Shine: The 6,000-Year Story of Solar Energy, will be unsurprised by these developments. In an interview with pv magazine, he called solar energy "unstoppable" – and he should know: Perlin has been writing about solar's potential for more than 30 years. If you’ve not yet checked out his fascinating interview, it is well worth a read.

India and Latin America show their solar hand

Two of the world’s most promising emerging markets for solar – India and Latin America – both showed their hand this week, each revealing a definite thumbs-up for solar.

In India, the government rejected anti-dumping duties, much to the relief of the industry's gathering gaggle of project developers and investors. India's solar potential is vast and unrealized, having stumbled over the past 12 months due to political uncertainty. But pro-solar PM Narendra Modi has cleverly navigated the solar minefield, and the National Solar Mission can hopefully now get back on track – a track that could lead to the installation of 17 GW of solar PV capacity by 2022.

In Latin America, this week's Intersolar South America exhibition served to remind the world of the thirst for solar energy that exists in this region. The overall mood is one of acceptance of solar power, and a desire to get involved at a grass roots level – which means more solar manufacturing, more local expertise, more installed capacity, and more off-grid installations.

pv magazine has a full and frank Latin America report coming up in next month’s September issue, so be sure not to miss it.

And finally…

It was backslaps all round for Japan's Kyocera this week after it was revealed that the company was the only solar manufacturer to receive top marks in all six categories of GTM Research's July 2014 PV Module Reliability Scorecard.

Solar power in New York received an overhaul this week following the news that the city’s solar programs are to be bundled together under one initiative – the NY-Sun Incentive Program. “This approach will help the industry plan for the future, spur new development and aid in New York’s transition to a cleaner, cheaper and more efficient energy grid,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

And in a bad week for renewable energy in Australia, a government-appointed review panel advised that the Renewable Energy Target (RET) be scaled back in a move that solar supporters say will cause solar system price hikes of around 50%.

August 22-29: That was the week that was. Be sure to follow @pv-magazine on Twitter for continued updates and breaking news, and check back next Friday for the next pv magazine weekly news roundup.

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