The words of outgoing CEO of SolarPower Europe, James Watson (pp. 26-27) should provide a skip to any solar professional’s step as another year commences in the fast-paced PV business. Solar is, in Watson’s words, “full of optimists, and it is full of innovative and very bright people.” And who am I to disagree? However, each new year brings familiar cycles of challenges, hope, disappointments, and sometimes even regrets.
Last year was obviously an extremely difficult year for solar stocks, but it could have been worse. Solar stocks were driven by three themes this year: China’s policy shift; strong U.S. demand; and the unfolding U.S.-China trade war.
If you want to talk to manufacturers about module prices for 2019 – to submit a binding tender offer, perhaps – prepare to be disappointed. No one knows where the market is headed yet, which is why no one really wants to commit themselves – in other words, planning security is still trending towards zero
Among n-type manufacturers, SunPower, Panasonic, and LG had the leading roles in interdigitated back contact (IBC), heterojunction (HJT), and tunnel oxidized passivated contact (TOPCon), respectively. But Chinese cells with low cost and high efficiency trends have been on the rise. In the future expansion of n-type production lines, the power of Chinese cell manufacturers and equipment makers can’t be underestimated.
As anticipated, 2018 was a pivotal year for PV installations in Middle East and North Africa, writes Josefin Berg, Research and Analysis Manager at IHS Markit. Our end-of-year estimates show that approximately 3.6 GW of PV systems were installed in the region in 2018, compared to less than 1 GW in 2017.
MENA countries have made significant strides in recent years in the fostering of both large-scale and distributed solar market segments. However, some investors and developers may turn elsewhere for opportunities if there remains a predominance of large utility-scale projects dominated by a small number of players, writes Iwan Walters, a partner in the corporate practice of Eversheds Sutherland.
Walking along Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residence area in 2013, there was a sign that read: “Keep Calm, We Still Have Oil.” Despite the United Arab Emirates (UAE) kick-starting the region’s first commercial solar power project only five years earlier, the country remained focused on its black gold – as did its neighbors.
The climate, developing economy, and rapid demographic growth are leading to increased electricity demand in the MENA region. However, as a hub of conventional energy supply, it has been slow to embrace PV. To capture more of the value chain and deliver the full potential of solar PV, there are increasing calls for distributed generation deployment to play a much more prominent role.
The opportunities for power-to-gas have long interested the solar community, but large-scale projects have been exceptionally rare. Outgoing CEO of SolarPower Europe James Watson has presided over a transformative period at the organization, and has departed this month to head up Eurogas – right at the point the region’s solar sector is set for revival. Advancing a power-to-gas agenda, Watson says, will be a big part of his new challenge.
Considering the remarkable advances made by the solar sector since the Rio ‘Earth Summit’ of 1992, PV was notable by its absence at the Convention of Parties (COP) climate change summit held by the UN in Poland.
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