Solar O&M market to surpass 390 GW by 2020, says GTM

A report released this week by GTM Research has forecast that the global utility-scale solar PV operations and maintenance (O&M) market will reach 390 GW by 2020, enjoying an even spread of growth in both fast-growing and contracting markets.

Unlike the equally fast-growing EPC sector, O&M can remain an attractive market in regions where new solar construction has slowed significantly, such as Germany, making the sector’s growth more widespread across new, emerging, strong and mature solar markets.

By the end of 2015, the global O&M market for utility-scale solar PV will be around 133 GW, a figure that represents a doubling of capacity over the past two years. Within five years, that figure will have tripled to around 390 GW, the GTM Research report says.

In assessing future growth, the report identifies how growing solar markets will remain the chief driver for O&M opportunities globally – particularly in China, the U.S. and India – but also denotes key expansion in countries where most of the addressable O&M market is comprised of older plants, such as Germany and Spain.

"Just like the larger PV market, the global PV O&M market has been growing at a fast pace these past few years," said GTM Research’s report author, Cedric Brehaut. "And unlike the EPC business, it remains attractive even when new construction slows, as seen in Germany, where the addressable O&M market for MW-scale plants exceeds 11 GW in 2015 despite a drop in new MW-scale plant activations."

The report also analyzes the sector’s three distinct services – operations, maintenance and asset management – and assesses the competitive landscape of each. A large majority of vendors offer all three types of service, but asset management remains, in some cases, distinct from O&M, and there is a growing trend that even O&M is decoupling, with half of those O&M providers analyzed reporting different MW counts for both operations and maintenance.

"With a single vendor providing both asset management and O&M, there is no duplication of supervision and reporting functions, so arguably this results in lower staffing costs for managing the same asset portfolio," added Brehaut.

The report does warn, however, of the risks association with ‘one-stop shop’ providers, which may not "defend the interests of the owner as fiercely as would an independent asset manager."

Another trend noted in the report is the growing number of providers specializing in either operations or maintenance in certain markets due to the rather different competencies and infrastructures required to satisfactorily carry out the tasks associated with each field.