Here is an interesting fact: Solar PV is already upturning the business models of utilities around the world, yet right now it contributes just 1 per cent of global electricity demand. Imagine what its impact will be when it grows another tenfold in the coming decade.
In 2014, according to the International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power System Programme (IEA PVPS) new document Snapshot of Global PV Markets 2014, a total of 38.7GW of global PV capacity was added in 2014, just above 2013, as a steep decline in Europe was offset by sharp gains in Asia.
This took total capacity to 177GW, a tenfold increase since 2008. This total is expected to grow by nearly one-third in 2015.
In the coming decades, solar PV is forecast to make an even greater impact. Last year, the IEA updated its forecast to suggest that solar PV’s share of global electricity will reach 16 per cent by 2050, with around 4,600GW of installed PV capacity.
Even so, the IEA is still regarded as highly conservative on solar’s potential. Deutsche Bank expects solar to become a $5 trillion market by 2030, when its share of the global electricity market will have risen more than 10-fold as fossil fuels struggle to compete, particularly in new generation.
According to the latest data, already 19 countries around the world, including Australia, source more than 1 per cent of their electricity needs from solar PV.
In the first established markets in Europe, the totals reach more than 7 per cent in countries like Germany, Greece and Italy. Another nine countries, including Australia and Japan, source more than 2 per cent of their electricity needs from solar PV.
Australia ranks in the top 10 markets for solar PV – both in installations in 2014, and for cumulative totals. What distinguishes Australia is that its market is almost totally rooftop solar – on households and businesses – while other major markets are more focused on large-scale solar.
China, Japan and the US dominate the market now, while Germany still leads on total capacity – although it could be overtaken by China in 2015, which has set a target of 17GW of new solar PV for the year.
This next graph seeks to illustrate the changing focus of global solar PV markets – Europe to Asia and the Americas. Asia accounted for nearly two-thirds of installations in 2014 and is expected to dominate again in 2015.
But a series of new markets are also emerging. The UK, France and Netherlands are still growing in Europe, even though the PV market in some countries has almost completely shut down.
The US market continues to grow, and reached 6.2GW in 2014. Canada and, to a lesser extent, Mexico are also progressing, and Chile has installed close to 400MW, becoming de facto the first PV country in South America. Brazil and Peru are following in its footsteps.