Cumulatively, the Top 10 PV markets accounted for 86% of global demand in 2012, down slightly when compared to the 89% share achieved in 2011, according to NPD Solarbuzz analysis within the forthcoming Marketbuzz report.
Germany was once again the largest single-country market in the world, growing slightly year-on-year in volume terms but falling two percentage points in global demand share.
China showed tremendous growth in 2012, increasing its market size by more than 70% year-on-year, to become the second largest market in the world for PV, and displacing Italy whose market declined by 50%.
North America – comprised of the US and Canadian markets – more than doubled year-on-year, moving up the Top 10 list by two places, and displacing France and Italy in the process.
Markets outside of the Top 10 continue to account for a minimal portion of total global demand but showed strong growth year-on-year, increasing share by three percentage points and growing more than 40% on a volume basis. Current projections show this trend continuing into 2013 with growth in emerging countries (especially in Asia) set to increase another three percentage points from current demand share figures.
Growth in Asian markets will not be confined to markets outside of the Top 10 either, with China set to become the largest single-country market in the world in 2013, and Japan set to grow by 50% in 2013 to become the fourth largest PV market in the world.
The developments are a dramatic change from several years ago when PV demand was almost entirely dominated by European markets. The shift towards other markets is broadly beneficial to the industry, as it reduces the risk of strong demand swings due to abrupt policy changes in any single country.
As installed system pricing continues to decline, it is likely that PV growth in regions that were previously underdeveloped will continue to increase, further broadening the reach of the PV industry and offering new growth opportunities for module suppliers and project developers alike.
However, dark shadows continue to temper PV industry demand-growth euphoria going into 2013; in particular, industry developments centered around PV trade wars and capacity levels in China. Collectively, these may inadvertently polarise global PV demand into a China/non-China end-market climate in 2013.
It remains to be seen if PV growth in China will provide advantages to the global PV supply chain, or simply offer a short-term lifeline for domestic suppliers that have accumulated inflated capacity levels and are being increasingly targeted for exclusion by overseas PV lobbies.
Michael Barker is a Senior Analyst with NDP Solarbuzz in the United States