Solar Insights: Global PV demand headed for 31GW, led by China

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China PV demand to lead global growth in 2013, pick up EU slack. Suntech gets debt reprieve; Canadian Solar reports losses, warns on EU duties.

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A new solar PV report has predicted that global solar PV demand will jump by 2 gigawatts – from 29GW to 31GW – in 2013, marking a 7 per cent year-on-year increase. NPD Solarbuzz’s Marketbuzz 2013 report, released on Tuesday, also suggests that China will outpace Germany to become world’s leading PV consumer – a first in the market – while the top 10 PV territories will still account for 83 per cent of global PV demand.

“2013 will represent another transition year, as the PV industry adjusts to softness across legacy European markets,” said Michael Barker, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz, referring to the fallout of reductions in European renewables incentives. The report predicts demand in this region will suffer a 26 per cent Y/Y decline, falling to around 12GW. But the downturn in European demand – and particularity from Germany – is expected to be largely compensated for by the Asia-Pacific region (see chart below) – led by China, Japan, and India – where new policies will stimulate regional growth of over 50 per cent and account for more than 11GW of PV demand in 2013.

solarbuzz“In 2013, we expect to see improvement in the market fundamentals that enable PV demand to return to double-digit growth,” Barker said. “Installed-system prices will continue to fall, and PV will become increasingly cost competitive across regions with high electricity rates, shortages in domestic supply, and growing renewable obligations to fulfill.” And the report points to the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and other emerging regions as markets to watch from 2014 onwards, with market share expected to double by 2017, driven primarily by South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Israel, and Mexico.

Debt reprieve for Suntech, for now

Fallen solar giant Suntech Power Holdings has won two months-worth of breathing room on repaying $541 million of bonds, as part of the negotiations to restructure the PV panel maker’s debt. Bloomberg reports that more than 60 per cent of the holders of the notes, which are convertible into stock, agreed not to exercise their rights until May 15. The bonds were scheduled to mature last Friday and Suntech hired UBS to advise it on extending the deadline. The welcome reprieve comes just one week after the troubled company ousted its founder and former CEO Zhengrong Shi as chairman. Suntech hasn’t reported a profit since the first quarter of 2011.

Canadian Solar delivers loss, warns against EU measures

Canadian Solar has reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss – and more-than doubled losses year-on-year – while warning that retroactive duties on China-made solar products by the European Commission could reverse a pick-up in demand for its products in the continent. The listed Nasdaq-listed company continues to feel the impact of falling solar module prices, reporting net revenue for the fourth quarter of 2012 of $US294.8 million, down 9.5 per cent from $326 million in the third quarter of 2012 and down 37.8 per cent from $474.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. Total solar module shipments in the fourth quarter were 404MW, compared to 384MW in the prior quarter and 436MW in the same quarter a year ago.

The company also reported a full-year loss from operations of $US142.5 million and a net loss of $US195.1 million for 2012; while its solar module shipments were 1,543MW in 2012, up 16.6 per cent from 1,323MW in fiscal year 2011. Stock of the company, most of whose manufacturing operations are in China, hit two-month low on the news, falling 12 per cent to $US3.28 on Monday. Canadian Solar’s CEO Shawn Qu said that while EU demand had been on the improve, it “had the potential to become choppy” due to strong hints the European Commission will consider implementing retroactive duties.

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