Mercom: Global solar market to grow 15% to 66.7 GW this year

Yesterday Mercom Capital released its projections for the global solar market in 2016, predicting growth in most major markets to total a 15% increase to 66.7 GW. The order of the world’s leading markets will change slightly, with the United States displacing Japan as the second-largest market, and India surging ahead past the UK to take fourth place.

Mercom predicts that China will again remain the largest market, with nearly 30% of the total capacity installed this year at 18.5 GW. China has already started off strong with 7.14 GW installed in the first quarter alone, and Mercom notes a rush to beat feed-in tariff deadlines.

China has reduced its feed-in tariff up to 11%, but is also putting in place measures to support renewable energy payments, including the gradual implementation of guaranteed payment for electricity from renewables to address curtailment issues.

The U.S. market is expecting an even greater boom this year. Mercom states that despite a slow first quarter, it expects significant ramping up in the second half, and has given a “conservative” forecast of 13.5 GW installed in 2016. Mercom also notes that the surprise extension of the U.S. Investment Tax Credit last December has “completely changed the dynamic of the U.S. market”, and has poised the nation for future growth.

Flat market growth is expected in Japan, where the feed-in tariff has been cut 11% but remains a generous ¥24 (around US$0.21) per kilowatt-hour. Japan is also struggling with grid limitations and slow development of a massive solar pipeline, and is planning to move from feed-in tariffs to an auction system for larger projects.

Regardless, the nation is still expected to install 10.5 GW this year.

Perhaps the most exciting story in this year’s predictions is India, where Mercom forecasts that the market will nearly double to 4 GW. The nation has 10 GW of solar projects under development, and is working towards a stated goal of 100 GW by 2022 set under new Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While this will be very difficult to achieve, it is an indication of the ambition of the new administration.

The story from Europe is less positive. After a series of policy setbacks under the Conservative government, the UK solar market is expected to fall from 4 GW to around 2 GW this year. Mercom expects Germany and France to fill out the top three European markets.

Mercom notes that solar has continued its impressive growth from only 2.6 GW installed in 2007, however the rate of that growth appears to have slowed. While in the first decade of the 21st century growth rates were an average of 40%, for the last five years they have fallen to 13-28%, and this year’s expected 15% growth rate is the slowest of the last four years.

For more details, please see Mercom Capital CEO Raj Prabhu’s feature article based on the company’s latest global forecast in the May edition of pv magazine.