China dispatch: mixed views on whether new 2015 goal can be realized

Earlier this week China’s National Energy administration announced that is was increasing its goal for 2015 installed capacity from 15 GW to 17.8 GW. A hang over of uncompleted projects from 2014 will play a role in the realization of this enhanced goal, however doubts remain as to whether it is realistic.

Other than increasing the overall target, the new 2015 goal differs in other ways. This time the NEA has only set a goal as a total figure for all PV installation types including ground-mounted PV power plants and distributed generation power station (DG). Furthermore, for rooftop DG projects and those projects generating electricity for self-consumption, no installation limitation was set, this means that even if the DG projects exceed the total figure they will be accepted.

There is an interesting context in which the new PV goals were announced. A private film, directed by a famous journalist from the CCTV, called “Under the Dome” was distributed online during the period of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which ended last week. The film addresses the heavy air pollution in northern China and deeply moved its audiences and representatives of the two conferences.

The film was discussed widely on the Internet, got numerous comments and reawakened many Chinese citizens’ passion for environmental protection. Actually, in China the release of the film itself is a kind of signal that that the central government will pay much more attention to environment protection and related industries.

Whether China can achieve the new 2015 target has attracted a range of opinions. Some insiders believe China will achieve the target since all main obstacles for PV industry are being swept aside. The financial market is opening again to PV industry, the national grid operator has made a commitment to cooperate in terms of the connection of PV power stations and the grid, and more policies are expected to reduce the tax burden on PV power station development. Indeed, it seems the entire external environment of downstream PV sector is improving.

On the other hand, some others believe it will be difficult to see such a rapid ramp up of installations and the final capacity of installations will total less than the goal because the industry needs deeper, perhaps even structural reform to place it on a sustainable footing. One thing is clear, there will be tremendous progress in 2015 in terms of PV installations in China, especially in the area of DG.