4: Wrapping it up

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Through a new royal decree, approved by Spain’s Council of Ministers, the Ministry for the Ecological Transition put an end to the so-called “sun tax” in October.

Another historic moment was recorded in Germany, when it was announced this month that no public incentive was paid in August for PV installations up to 10 MW and selected under the country’s tender mechanism. This was due to the fact that market prices were higher than the price including the feed-in premium tariff, awarded in the tender.

In the run up to COP 24 in Katowice, Poland, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its much anticipated report assessing the current efforts in climate change mitigation, and calculating the costs and benefits of staying with a 1.5°C warming scenario, compared to a 2°C scenario. Overall, it concluded that unprecedented changes are required in all aspects of society, and that they need to be implemented very rapidly and at a large-scale. Are any of the world’s politicians listening though, and will they take the required action when they meet in a few weeks? Read on to discover more …

Following on, Christian Breyer, Professor of Solar Economy at Finland’s Lappeenranta University of Technology, told pv magazine, “there is no alternative to a world of 100% renewables“. He didn’t just leave it at that, but also highlighted what could be done to achieve this. The WWF, meanwhile, said that 2% of Germany’s surface is enough for 100% renewables.

Ping ponging back and forth were rumors surrounding Saudi Arabia’s 200 GW solar plans. While the Wall Street Journal reported that the plans for the mega project, first unveiled in March, had been scrapped, the government responded a few days later saying that they were very definitely still on track.

Floating solar also continued to gain traction with the announcement that a large power plant is being planned in Ukraine. The Asian Development Bank further said that Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and the Kyrgyz Republic are three countries possessing strong potential for this emerging technology.

Elon Musk’s off-hand tweets regarding taking Tesla private on August 7 came full circle, bringing him down as chair of the company he co-founded and led to become a symbol of disruption in the energy and transportation industries. A short while later, the new chair was unveiled: Robyn Denholm, who is currently the chief financial officer and head of strategy at Telstra, Australia’s largest telecom company.

Adding to its ambitious 10 GW storage announcement in March, EDF launched yet another grand plan, this time aiming to become the leader in e-mobility by 2022. It outlined three targets, and cemented new partnerships, to achieve this goal.

After the impressive results seen a month ago in Jordan’s Round 3 PV and wind auction, the successful developers have still not been announced, despite the government initially saying it would take two weeks to award the bids. I would not suggest holding your breath for an outcome in 2018 …

Finally, in recognition of both its resurgence, and future potential, we launched our third Spanish-language website in October, pv magazine España.

World’s largest

At the start of November, it was announced that China may raise its 2020 solar target to more than 200 GW. Indeed, with the target of 105 GW of cumulative installed PV power – originally set for the end of the decade – having already been surpassed, PV InfoLink said the target may now be revised upwards to 210-270 GW.

Korea of all places said it was gearing up to build the world’s largest PV park (and if Saudi’s plans don’t go ahead, it really could be). The government plans to funnel 10 trillion Korean won ($8.8 billion) into the development of a 4 GW “mega-scale” solar and wind complex. The plan includes a 3 GW solar park, which would be the world’s largest. President Moon said the PV site should be commissioned by 2022. Overall, South Korea plans to add 30 GW of PV by 2030, to improve the country’s until now, poor, renewable energy performance.

The IEA also released its 2018 World Energy Outlook this month. Even in its low ball scenario, it imagines that installed PV capacity will overtake that of all other forms of energy apart from gas by 2040. Overall, it presents four scenarios in its report, which show a changing energy landscape. While it finds that CO2 levels are, perversely, on the rise, and that many energy efforts in all but the most whimsical of its forecasts are far behind those needed to seriously address global warming, it still imagines coal, oil and gas playing a leading role in our energy mix going forward. Long story short: Read something else if you want to take real climate action. We suggest The Drawdown.

Motech’s woes worsened this month, with the shedding of another 900 solar employees. Its survival strategy includes focusing on high efficiency products and serving the local market. To this end, it says it has entered into collaborations with unidentified partners. How effective this will be however, is still up for debate.

Despite the overall darkness Trump is spreading across the United States, an increasing amount of rebellious light is being shone in the form of ambitious renewable energy targets coming in from various states. This month, five governors-elect in states with a combined population of 26 million put forth campaign goals of 100% renewable electricity. Currently, only California and Hawaii have a deadline to move to 100% zero-carbon electricity. 

In August, news of Colombia’s very first technology neutral renewable energy auction emerged. While 1 GW was set to be up for grabs on January 2, the plans didn’t make it that far, with an announcement on November 5 stating that it had been postponed. Rumor has it that it will now likely be held in the third quarter of 2019.

Are we missing something?

The final month of 2018 was dominated by the COP 24 climate negotiations, which were held over a two-week period in Katowice, Poland. Or, to put it more accurately, the final month of 2018 should have been dominated by the negotiations. Strangely, despite the absolute need to immediately start seriously addressing our current climate situation, the world appeared more preoccupied with other “more pressing” matters like Brexit, whatever Donald Trump was up to at the time and, well, anything other than the matter at hand. Even mainstream media seemed quieter than normal on the subject. Which given the importance of this year’s negotiations, was just weird.

Anyhow, pv magazine sent editor Max Hall to Katowice for the second week, where he live blogged his impressions from the negotiations. Overall, he concluded that although solar power was touched upon in several discussions, there were few dedicated PV presentations, with the India “pavilion” at the conference area away from the all-important plenary negotiations a notable exception.

Overall, unfortunately, yet pretty predictively, COP 24 did not result in any groundbreaking deals being made. Indeed, we are still far way from the goal of keeping warming under 2 oC, with the U.N. World Meteorological Organization saying we are actually on track for a 3-5 oC rise in temperatures this century.

Unveiled on the sidelines of COP was the latest China Renewable Energy Outlook (CREO), which envisages a new era in the Chinese energy industry. The country will not require a gas bridge between coal and renewables, it finds, adding that renewables will become the core of the nation’s energy system by 2050, with annual PV installs of between 80-160 GW possible. Not only that, but electricity supply could be cheaper in this future than it is today.

An equally buoyant report, also released at COP stated that it is not only possible for Europe to transition to a world powered 100% by renewables by 2050, but that it would create more jobs and be more cost effective than the present fossil fuel-led system. Again, solar played a central role in this vision.

SMA finally announced more concrete details of its restructuring plan, initially unveiled in September. Echoing similar moves made in 2014, when it reduced guidance twice and shed over 600 jobs, the Germany-based company has this month said that around 425 full time job losses will be made, out of a total of 3,307. It will also leave China and sell its companies to the management there.

In more unfortunate news, the U.K. Government finally announced the results of its consultation launched in July on ending FIT export payments. With the vast majority of respondents against the proposal… it has responded by going ahead anyway. After the end of March – with the exception of a small number of less-than-generous exemptions – the payments received by small scale generators for excess power will instead be determined by the levelization process.

Despite its many critics, which since the 1990s have been vociferous in their claims that they will never amount to much – ever seen “Who killed the electric car?” – the march of the electric vehicle (EV) is gaining speed. Indeed, a number of significant manufacturing and investment plans in China, Germany and North America by major automobile makers VW, Tesla and BYD this month are backing up predictions that electric vehicle car sales are set to skyrocket in the coming decades.

If noting else kicks off in the next four days, that concludes our review of the 2018 solar PV industry. Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments below.

We hope you enjoyed reflecting on the year gone by with pv magazine. The entire team would like to thank all our readers for their continued support throughout our tenth year of being. We wish all of you a very happy holiday period and look forward to returning refreshed and ready to serve you again with engaging news and analysis in 2019. Let’s see what next year has in store for us then!

Read all about the solar goings on in Q1, Q2 and Q3; and watch out for an overview of what we can expect in 2019.

Also, from pv magazine USA, you can read a more indepth review of the past year in the U.S. solar market.