China: 2014 shortfall does not diminish 2015 ambitions

China’s NEA China has drafted a more ambitious PV power installation plan for 2015. The plan was published at the end of January. It targets 15 GW of PV to be installed in 2015, with 7 GW of that to be in distributed generation (DG) applications. That leaves 8 GW for ground mounted PV for the year.

NEA had initially targeted 14 GW in 2014, including 6 GW ground-mount power and 8 GW of DG in 2014, in figures released one year ago. Actual installation figures published by NEA last month for 2014 show only 10.52 GW (including about 8 GW ground-mount solar power and less than 3 GW of DG) were achieved.

Industry observers believe multiple factors affected the market last year and prevented China from reaching the goal. A number of industry observers and insiders have set out a number of reasons why it is more likely the 2015 will be realized.

Reasons for a bullish 2015

China modified the project approval process from state level to the provincial level in last June, but most provinces appeared ill-prepared to process PV power plant applications and thus the approval procedure was slow. As a result many planned projects were not completed by December and thus cannot be counted into the 2014 total.

A second factor was that capital markets appear very scrupulous with their lending to PV projects. Chinese banks supplied only 20 billion RMB of 80 billion RMB (US$3.2 billion of $12.8 billion) the market required. Many PV projects were postponed due to insufficient financing.

NEA is also understood to have overestimated the market potential of distributed generation projects (DG) and underestimated the difficulty of DG. While developing DG projects, many project sponsors encountered property issues with both ground and roof mounted applications.

Finally, unnamed insiders have been reported in the Chinese press as saying China’s anti-corruption efforts in energy field to some extent influenced the development of PV power station.

But things are expected to be markedly different in 2015. Provincial regimes are becoming more familiar with the approval procedures for new PV projects. Major banks such as CDB (China Development Bank), ICBC (Industrial & Commercial Bank of China), CCB (China Construction Bank) appear more willing to fund PV projects. And for the DG target, NEA’s plan assigns 50% of the target to installation on wasteland and fishponds, which would reduce negotiation challenges and the impacts of property rights issues, as they relate to PV.

Importantly NEA has been identified as a new leading body within solar, determined to push the installation of PV power stations in China to a higher level thus driving China’s PV supply chain.

As a result of these changes, Chinese PV industry observers are more optimistic that ambitious 2015 capacity goals are more likely to be met.