BNEF swaps Japan for China as biggest solar market in 2013

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Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has said that preliminary estimates indicate that the PV industry end demand reached as high as 39GW in 2013, up 28% from 2012 and driven by massive growth in China, Japan and the US in particular.

General consensus from a range of market forecasters expects installations to have reached around 36GW in 2013.


However, more significant is BNEF’s u-turn on projections given throughout 2013, that Japan would be the largest market for solar installations, with China and the US in second and third position, respectively.

BNEF acknowledged that China had “outstripped all expectations in 2013” as part of its headline for a press release providing its estimates for the sector last year.

According to BNEF, demand in China reached at least 12GW in 2013, citing preliminary figures from China’s National Energy Administration, though the government agency also acknowledged that fully qualified figures for the year were yet to be compiled and validated.

BNEF noted that demand in China could have reached 14GW in 2013 as developers rushed to complete projects before FIT changes at the end of the year.

“The 2013 figures show the astonishing scale of the Chinese market, now the sleeping dragon has awoken” said, Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “PV is becoming ever cheaper and simpler to install, and China’s government has been as surprised as European governments by how quickly it can be deployed in response to incentives.”

Currently, BNEF said it had compiled a project database that had recorded 9.5GW of projects built in China in 2013 but would have nearly complete data by March, 2014.

On a regional basis in China, BNEF noted that PV projects were heavily concentrated in remote, high irradiance regions of western provinces of Gansu, Xinjiang and Qinghai.

Gansu was expected to have been responsible for 24% of all installations in China last year, while Xinjiang was said to have accounted for 18% and Qinghai, 17% of installations.

According to BNEF, state-owned power generators China Power Investment Corporation, China Three Gorges and China Huadian have become the world’s largest owners of solar assets and China the first country to install more than 8GW of PV in a given year.

Japan second largest market

Japanese installations in calendar year 2013 were not revealed in the statement but BNEF had previously said earlier in the year that the country would install around 7.7GW, just ahead of China at 7.6GW. However, later projections touted Japan would install around 9.5GW, perpetuating its message that Japan would be the largest market for solar.

According to BNEF, China is expected to retain its number one ranking with a forecast of another year of installations reaching 14GW. The lack of growth was said to be due to the change in feed-in mechanisms that have changed to focus on distributed generation in urban, high population areas in the eastern provinces.

Growth would be tempered as the switch to commercial rooftop installations is more complex and would take time to build momentum. However, BNEF believes growth will recover in 2015.

2014 forecast

The global PV market growth in 2014 was forecasted to be 20% higher than in 2013, putting BNEF’s forecast for the year at around 46.8GW.

Industry forecasts from Yingli Green, NPD Solarbuzz, Deutsche Bank, ROTH Capital and BNEF all project bullish global PV demand in 2014.

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