Market research firm IHS has released a new forecast for the photovoltaics industry that is more bullish about global installations in 2013 than many others.

Confirming its previous projection, IHS said that global PV installations in 2012 reached 31.4GW, a 14% increase over the previous year. In contrast, NPD Solarbuzz had recently confirmed it put global installations at 29GW for 2012.

However, IHS noted that grid-connected PV capacity was actually lower than the total installation figure which it said had reached 30GW in 2012. IHS said this was due to lengthy delays in connecting major PV projects in countries such as China and India.

The better than expected estimates for 2012 carry forward for 2013, according to IHS, forecasting another year of double-digit growth with installations topping 35GW, another year of record installations.

Ash Sharma, senior director of solar research at IHS said: “We often see quite pessimistic forecasts at the start of each year for PV installations, due to a seasonal slowdown and talks of major incentive cuts as Europe reassesses its PV policy typically after yet another year of record growth. However, our analysis of more than 60 countries around the world shows that demand outside of Europe will more than compensate for the fall in the Continent, and installations will go on at any rate to hit 35GW this year.”

Regional dynamics

Not surprisingly, the bullish stance comes from the resurgence in PV demand within the Asia Pacific region. According to IHS the fourth quarter of 2012 saw 4GW installed, accounting for almost 50% of total global demand in the quarter.

IHS noted that it expected Asia to become the largest region for PV installations for the first time in 10 years with around 15GW of installations in 2013. In contrast, European demand is expected to be around 13GW this year.

As has been well documented, China is becoming a major emerging market in its own right, however IHS believes the government target of 10GW of installations, primarily ground mounted utility-scale PV installations, is too optimistic and believes around 6GW is a more realistic expectation. The forecast from IHS for China is well below the latest NPD Solarbuzz figure of over 7GW for 2013, though both research houses are downplaying China’s contribution for the year.

“We predict China will install at least 6 GW of new PV capacity this year,” added Sharma. “This is some way lower than the 10GW figure that has been widely circulated around the industry as China’s target for 2013. The continued issue of grid-connecting megawatt-scale PV projects, as well as delays in developers receiving FIT payments, is likely to hold back China from installing more this year. Even so, a dwindling European market and restrictions on Chinese modules could well drive higher domestic installations.”

Not in dispute was the expected decline in demand within Europe. While Europe accounted for 70% of PV installations in 2011, it fell further to only 57% in 2012.

Bright spots in Europe are the UK, Turkey and the Netherlands, yet overall the decline is broad based. 

“While hopes in the past could have been pinned on Germany or Italy — which accounted for nearly two-thirds of European installations in 2012 — growth here looks impossible,” Sharma said. “Changes to Germany’s EEG and Italy’s Conto Energia are already in place, and a contraction in these two big markets is predicted in 2013. Moreover, looming antidumping measures against Chinese manufacturers are taking their toll on Europe, resulting in price increases and additional registration paperwork that will further temper solar demand this year.”

In emerging markets, coming off from small installation levels, growth rates of 250%, 50% and 65% are forecast for Middle-East & Africa, Americas, and Asia respectively.