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IEA still low-balling solar growth, says Energy Watch Group

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PV Magazine

The Energy Watch Group has again called out the International Energy Agency for what it says is a “heavy underestimation” of the growth of solar and wind in its latest report.

S.A.G. Solarstrom

S.A.G. Solarstrom

Amid great fanfare came the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) mid-term renewable forecast this week, hailed as a righting of previous wrongs and an admittance on behalf of the IEA that it had previously been too conservative in its assessment of solar and wind’s global progress.

The report found that last year saw 153 GW of new renewable capacity installed, while the headline figure picked up by many leading media outlets was that 500,000 solar panels were fitted every single day in 2015.

However, the Energy Watch Group (EWG) – a long-term critic of the IEA’s calculations – has reported that the IEA has once again heavily underestimated the growth of wind and solar PV.

Despite a 13% increase in the IEA’s mid-term projections, the EWG’s analysis argues that these new calculations still suggest that wind and solar installations will peak in 2015 and 2016 respectively, with the five years between now and 2021 likely to see a slowing of the growth seen these past two years.

EWG chairman Christian Breyer calls these projections misleading, and remarked that the IEA is “playing a dangerous game” in relying on assumptions that err on the side of conservatism.

Rather, the EWG analysis shows, solar growth between now and 2021 is likely to far exceed the projections laid out in the IEA report. As an example, India’s plan to install 90 GW of additional PV capacity to 2022 is off-handedly dismissed, with the IEA forecasting total PV growth in the whole of Asia Pacific will amount to 85 GW by 2021.

“We would like to know why the IEA assumes that this policy target in India will not be achieved,” mused Breyer. “We have found no valid arguments in the report.”

There are accusations, too, of erroneous cost assumptions in the report, with EWG claiming that the IEA has overestimated the price of solar PV in major markets for 2016 by at least 20%. For example, PV power plants in India are currently averaging a cost of around $750/kWp, argues the EWG, whereas the IEA report says that “PV prices in leading markets should not be lower than $1,150 – $1,300/kWp”. The reality is that costs are already around 35% lower than that in China and Germany, the EWG analysis argues.

“The costs of global weighted average electricity generation, projected for 2021 by the IEA, are about today’s cost,” said an EWG press release. “This means that the IEA ignores the currently observed cost declines of about 5-10% per year.”

The EWG’s president Hans-Josef Fell added: “In the last 10 years, the IEA has been making misleading projections for solar PV and wind, as well as e-mobility, ignoring the radical price fall in these sectors. This appears as an attempt of protecting fossil fuel business that has come under economic pressure.

“We call on the IEA to urgently review its assumptions and to finally make realistic projections in its forthcoming World Energy Outlook.”

The IEA’s World Energy Outlook is due to be published on November 16, and the EWG has affirmed that it will be closely assessing the projections laid out in the publication for evidence of further obfuscation of renewable energy’s growth and progress.

Source: PV Magazine. Reproduced with permission.  

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  • howardpatr

    Real slow learners at the IEA but its long connection with the fossil fuel industry explains the ongoing problem.

  • Tim Buckley

    This assessment is spot on – the IEA continues to overestimate the capital cost and hence LCOE of renewables, as witnessed be the constant flow of new record low solar tariffs being awarded in an increasing number of countries worldwide – from Mexico, Argentina, Brazil to India and the UAE. South Africa’s latest tender reports that renewables are now 40% cheaper than the real cost of new coal fired power generation. The IEA also ignores the fact that the wave of supposedly unstoppable new coal fired power generation across Asia is almost entirely contingent on capital guarantees and subsidised ECA financing from Japan, Korea and China. So the IEA seems to deliberately underestimate the accelerating rate of renewable energy installations globally. Wind and solar installs will peak in 2015/16 and decline thereafter – really? The trends of the last decade shows the IEA has got it wrong, consistently. Who is on the IEA Coal Industry Advisory Board – no surprises to see the Minerals Council of Australia and Peabody Energy! Taking strategic advice from Peabody?

    • neroden

      “The IEA also ignores the fact that the wave of supposedly unstoppable
      new coal fired power generation across Asia is almost entirely
      contingent on capital guarantees and subsidised ECA financing from
      Japan, Korea and China.”

      And China’s stopped financing coal. Entirely. Japan and Korea aren’t financing much of anything outside their home countries either.

  • john

    When every report has consistently been incorrect the only conclusion is that the data they are using has to not be actual factual or real life figures.
    How can an organisation be so ignorant of the facts?

    • neroden

      The IEA always uses linear, or even constant (“no growth”) projections, even though solar adoption has followed an exponential growth curve for *40 years* and wind has done the same.

      • john

        Perhaps they use wish lists.
        The figures are not a real reflection of the market place perhaps they use the usual in the resource industry multiply the real cost by 2.5 and your may break even on a contract.

  • neroden

    I just use Lazard for LCOE and BNEF for adoption curves. IEA numbers are garbage.