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The prospects for the global solar PV industry have grown even brighter in early 2021 as industry sentiment improves and policymakers in various regions agree investments and concrete measures to support dramatic growth in renewable energy.
The upbeat outlook emerged this month in a Global Solar Council survey of its members – made up of national and regional solar associations – as well as leading solar businesses and was reinforced by experts taking place in a GSC webinar on post-pandemic scenarios. Preliminary results from the survey show an improving outlook for solar business, with 64% of respondents expecting double-digit sales growth in 2021 compared to 60% who reported such expansion in 2020. The survey also highlighted greater approval of how governments are supporting PV in terms of post-pandemic plans and green recovery policies compared to the support provided in the midst of the health emergency in 2020.
Jose Donoso, Chairman of the Global Solar Council, stated: “Solar PV is key for a complete economic recovery and essential for achieving the more ambitious decarbonization targets of many countries around the world. As emerged from the GSC survey, there is still room for more support from governments, particularly in terms of better permitting and simplification of authorization procedures, improved power market access rules, better financing conditions and mechanisms, tax reductions and incentives for PV investment and self-production.”
Industry experts contributed to the webinar, reporting the latest updates and forecasts from around the world. According to Paolo Frankl, Head of Renewable Energy Division at the International Energy Agency (IEA), the unprecedented current scenario is paving the way for a historically important COP26 meeting: after the pandemic caused the largest drop in global energy demand since World War II
(-4% in 2020, with growth coming only from renewables and solar PV in particular) there has been exceptional policy momentum towards the clean energy transition as countries raise emissions reduction targets and plan the largest green stimulus packages in economic history.
On the European front, the CEO of Solar Power Europe (SPE), Walburga Hemetsberger, said: “The EU solar sector has shown impressive resilience in 2020, despite COVID-19, and we can look back proudly at the double-digit growth, with 18.2 GW of installations. As the cheapest electricity source in history, and also the most job-intensive and versatile renewable energy technology, solar is a key enabler for Europe’s Green Recovery and the Green Deal’s climate and energy targets.”
The scenario is promising on the U.S. side as well. “Despite the pandemic and four years of unhelpful federal policies, thanks to increased cost-effectiveness, strong consumer demand, and aggressive state renewable energy targets, 2020 was a banner year for the U.S. renewable sector with almost 19 gigawatts of new solar energy capacity installed. In fact, last year renewable energy was America’s largest source of private sector infrastructure investment,” said Gregory Wetstone, President and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE). “Now we have a presidential administration that’s taking unprecedented steps to catalyze an accelerated transition to clean energy and address the climate crisis. ACORE looks forward to working with the Biden administration to advance this historic effort, helping deliver the clean energy future that Americans want and scientists say we need.”
A significant boost can come from China, as affirmed by Yiyang Liu, Deputy Secretary General of the China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA). “Last year China installed more than 48.2GW of solar power, the second-highest level ever,” he commented. “Solar power has produced 3.5% of China’s total power generation and this means we still have a very big potential to develop solar power. Investors see this potential and are putting new money into the industry, so a growing installed capacity in 2021 can help reduce the cost and the price of PV globally. The future of the solar sector is very bright.”
“Despite heterogeneity and different issues in the Latin American region such as financial barriers in Argentina, uncertainty of the legal framework in Mexico, incapacity of going faster than usual in Brazil, and of course the pandemic, in 2021 we expect huge growth in several countries,” said Marcelo Alvarez, Coordinator of the Global Solar Council’s Latin America Task Force and President of Camara Argentina de Energia Renovable (CADER). “Many PPAs have been signed, calling for bids are happening in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Argentina, we witness huge growth in terms of medium size (200kW-9MW) plants especially in Chile, and Costa Rica is the first Latam country to pledge decarbonization by 2030. For the sector to grow faster, some countries need to finalize their decarbonization roadmaps to let foreign investors understand what is happening in the coming 10 years.”
“The Global Solar Council firmly believes in the importance of giving voice to industry players, of all sizes, in all countries, and along the entire value chain,” concluded Gianni Chianetta, CEO of the Global Solar Council. “We also have to explore ways for other countries to follow the example of the EU and the U.S. as they raise ambitions in their plans and targets. Emerging countries need to be supported with long-term measures capable to finance their recovery, such as carbon pricing.”
The Global Solar Council survey aims to produce a snapshot of the sector’s current health and gather insights into possible post-pandemic scenarios for the solar market and the prospects for a green recovery, to ultimately understand the opportunities and barriers to solar development at this very important stage for the energy transition. The findings will be published in the Global Market Outlook 2021 produced by SolarPower Europe in cooperation with GSC. The main results will be presented at the GSC side event at COP26.