Chinese delays could see Japan steal solar top spot

Delayed and postponed solar PV projects in China mean that the country is likely to fall short of its goal to install 14 GW of PV in 2014, with Japan coming up strongly in the rear.

Li Junfeng, director general of the China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, has warned that “there isn’t enough time” for China to achieve its 14 GW target, adding that Japan is on course to end the year on between 10.3 – 11.9 GW – which could be enough for the country to steal top spot.

Speaking to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), the analyst revealed that China’s delays also pose a risk to many of the country’s small panel producers that are heavily reliant on a strong domestic market. BNEF analyst Wang Xiaoting added that China’s Tier 1 players like Yingli and Trina will be largely unaffected by China’s end of year slowdown, thanks in part to their diversification into higher-price markets.

Delays have stacked up in recent months as policy makers have purposely stunted approvals in the utility-scale sector in an attempt to usher through more rooftop installations as the country bids to boost its distributed solar power (DG). China has targeted more than 8 GW of DG power in 2014, but is currently short of that goal, which was a ten-fold increase on 2013.

Combined, Li revealed that China will probably install less than 12 GW of both DG and utility-scale solar PV in 2014, with capacity additions possibly falling below 10 GW once grid connection issues are factored in.

Last year’s final quarter saw a record-breaking rush of capacity additions as developers installed their projects ahead of a tariff cut. The final three months of 2013 saw 8.9 GW of capacity added – 70% of the entire annual installations – said Bloomberg, but Q4 2014 will see that figure limp home well below last year’s number.

Between January and September, just 3.79 GW of grid-connected solar capacity has been added, according to figures from China’s National Energy Administration. Overall, China currently has around 20 GW of solar PV capacity installed, and hopes to push that figure to 35 GW by the end of 2015.

Japan, meanwhile, has seen PV module demand boom to 2.52 GW in the past quarter, according to the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association (JPEA). The country is also on course to end the year strongly, BNEF added.