Global solar installed capacity up 87% to 447GW in 2023

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The US installed 32.4GW of solar capacity in 2023, leading the rest of the world except China. Image: FTC Solar.

Global solar installations increased by 87% year-on-year in 2023 as China continued to dominate growth, according to solar trade body SolarPower Europe (SPE).

In its Global Market Outlook for Solar Power 2024-2028 report, SPE said a total of 447GW of new solar capacity was installed in 2023, up from 239GW in 2022, representing an 87% growth. Globally, the world’s total solar capacity increased to 1.6TW as of the end of 2023.

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There are several factors that contributed to the growth in 2023, including a significant increase in global solar PV manufacturing capacities that greatly improved the availability of solar modules following the supply chain issues experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition, the global energy crisis in 2022 continued to stimulate demand across various regions. In response to this, governments, individuals and businesses opted for solar power as a reliable and cost-effective solution to high energy prices, according to the report.

Many module orders from 2021 and 2022 materialised in 2023 thanks to the increased availability of products and installers at more affordable prices.

The additions in 2023 were equivalent to more than half of India’s annual electricity needs or more than Brazil’s entire consumption. In Europe, the annual installations exceeded even the total annual combined electricity consumption of Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Czechia, Austria, Portugal and Greece.

Solar PV also accounted for 78% of global renewables capacity (576GW) added last year, followed by wind (117GW), hydro (7GW), biomass (4GW) and other renewables (1GW).

Solar additions have seen increased importance in the last three years, with solar accounting for 56% and 66% of new additions in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SPE, commented: “How far solar can go will be determined by equitable global access to financing, and the political will to deliver flexible energy systems fit for the renewable reality.”

Growth drivers in 2023

The growth of solar varies considerably around the world. In 2023, 80% of new installations were concentrated in the top ten markets. China continued to dominate the installed capacity as it added 253GW to the grid, marking a 167% year-on-year growth and installing 57% of the world’s solar in 2023. China was followed by the US (32.4GW), Brazil (15.4GW), Germany (15GW) and India (12.5GW).

Spain was ranked sixth in the list as it added 8.9GW of solar capacity last year, while Japan installed 6.2GW of solar capacity. Italy (5.2GW), Australia (5.1GW) and the Netherlands (4.9GW) were ranked eighth, ninth and tenth respectively.

However, there is an increasing number of countries meeting the SPE’s definition of “advanced solar markets,” countries that install at least 1GW of solar capacity annually. In 2023, the number of such countries grew to 31, up from 28 in 2022. The trade body cited the IEA World Energy Investment 2024 report, which noted that clean energy spending in emerging and developing economies only accounted for 15% of total clean energy investment worldwide.

To achieve the COP28 target of tripling renewables by 2030 with solar set to deliver half of this target, US$12 trillion will be required.

Looking ahead, substantial demand growth for solar PV systems in the coming years can be expected, driven by further cost improvements, product availability and the numerous benefits the technology provides. The global installed solar capacity is on track to exceed 2TW by this year.

SPE offered three scenarios regarding annual solar installations between 2024 and 2028. By 2024, the medium scenario forecasts a global growth rate of 22% to a market size of 544GW, approximately 100GW more than in 2023. The low scenario and high scenario for this year are 461GW and 647GW, respectively.

By 2028, SPE expects that the world will operate 668GW of solar capacity in the low scenario, while the medium and high scenarios would see 876GW and 1,122GW, respectively, in operation.

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