According to European trade association SolarPower Europe, preliminary global solar installations reached 98.9GW in 2017, a 29.3% increase over the previous year and another new record.
“After an astonishing 50% growth in 2016, many solar experts did not expect any growth in 2017,” said Michael Schmela, Executive Advisor and Head of Market Intelligence at SolarPower Europe. “The fact that we saw solar continue to grow at such a high rate despite these analyses proves that solar has been constantly underestimated. The solar revolution is unstoppable and happening much faster than anticipated.”
Taking the lead from officially released China figures, the trade association said that China installed 52.8GW in 2017, a 53% increase over the prior year. China had installed 34.54GW in 2016 and reiterated that it was the clear market leader once again.
The second biggest market was said to have been the US, installing 11.8GW in 2017. However, installations declined from over 15GW in 2016, indicating a decline of around 20%.
India replaced Japan as the third largest solar market in 2017, installing 9.6GW, compared to around 4GW in 2016, a 140% increase, making it one of the fastest growing multi-gigawatt markets in the world in 2017.
Solar installations in China and India were said to have contribute over 63% of the total solar demand in 2017.
SolarPower Europe had recently reported that European countries installed at least 8.61GW of solar in 2017, a 28% increase in comparison to the 6.72GW installed in 2016.
Christian Westermeier, President of SolarPower Europe commented: “It is good to see European solar growing again, and it is particularly encouraging that this increase is at about the same level as the global market. Yet the EU has a lot of work to do if it wants to keep pace with the rest of the world on solar energy – and therefore we hope that the EU will agree to a 35% Renewables target in the Clean Energy package”.
However, the trade association includes Turkey as a ‘European’ country, which turned out to be the largest individual country market in Europe in 2017, having installed 1.79GW. Solar installation growth in Turkey was a significant 213% increase year-on-year.
EU member states grew by around 6% to 6.03GW in 2017, up from 5.69GW in 2016. However, the UK Government had drastically cut incentive programmes and excluded solar from energy capacity bids, helping UK installations to fall by 54% to around 912MW in 2017, compared to 1.97GW in 2016, and less than half of the 4.1GW that was installed in 2015.
Excluding Turkey from being categorised as a ‘European’ country paints a continued picture of stagnation across Europe.
James Watson, CEO of SolarPower Europe, said: “Solar's continued growth is great news as we move the global energy transition forward – but Europe is at risk of being left behind. The EU must ensure that it addresses obstacles to solar's potential, such as barriers to self-consumption and it must ensure a strong framework for small scale solar. The EU must support policies that encourage more solar installations, such as the removal of trade barriers on solar panels. Not only will this ensure a clean energy future for the EU, but it will boost local development, it is expected that solar will provide over 40,000 more jobs in Europe by 2019 if the trade barriers are removed.”