Solar continues to break installation records


SolarPower Europe has released its new Global Market Outlook during The Smarter E Industry Days event. The report provides market intelligence for the global solar sector for 2020, and forecasts capacity for 2021–2025.

Despite the continued impact of COVID-19, a massive 138.2 GW of solar was installed in 2020, representing an 18 per cent increase compared to 2019, yet another global annual installation record for the global solar PV sector. Another significant milestone from 2020 was the fact that the global cumulative solar capacity reached 773.2 GW, exceeding three quarters of a terawatt for the first time ever. Market projections put the global solar sector comfortably within the Terawatt scale by 2022, and under optimal conditions, reaching 2 TW by 2025.

Aristotelis Chantavas, President of SolarPower Europe, said: “The past year was a record-setting one for the global solar sector, and despite the difficulties arising from COVID-19, solar remains on a strong and steady path. Solar’s growth confirmed its dominance among all newly installed power generation technologies, reaching a 39 per cent global share, which means that more than every third power plant installed in 2020 came from solar. The message from this Global Market Outlook is crystal clear: a solar-powered future is well on the way. In order to remain on this path we need to ensure the right permitting processes for smooth development and the right regulatory frameworks for electrification and renewables integration.”

In 2020, 18 countries added over 1 GW of solar, compared to 17 in 2019, and 11 in 2018, proving that solar is continuing its growth trajectory. The next four years will see more solar installed than previously anticipated, crossing the 200 GW annual installation level by 2022, and reaching 29 markets around the world adding more than 1 GW by 2023.

Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe, said: “Solar surprised us yet again by exceeding all expectations to set a new installation record, despite the severe consequences of COVID-19. Last year, even the most optimistic market analysts were forecasting a market decline, and yet solar proved its resilience and unstoppable growth trajectory by growing 18%! Most countries performed far better than expected, driven by solar’s historic cost-competitiveness and versatility. In a year defined by unpredictability, solar offered a sense of security and control. The good news coming out of this year’s GMO is that the future looks even brighter for solar. We now expect new annual installed capacities to reach 266 GW in 2025 in our medium-ambition scenario. To put this into perspective, only six years ago, in 2015, this was the world’s total installed solar power generation fleet.”

The Global Market Outlook forecasts cumulative grid-connected solar power capacities to reach 1,870 GW by 2025, according to the most likely scenario. Under optimal conditions, the world could operate PV generation plant capacities as large as 2.147 TW by the end of 2025. In the Medium Scenario, it is expected that total global installed PV generation capacity will pass the following milestones over the next 5 years: 900 GW in 2021, 1.1 TW in 2022, 1.3 TW in 2023, 1.6 TW in 2024, and 1.8 TW in 2025.

Michael Schmela, Head of Market Intelligence at SolarPower Europe, commented: “Looking back at 2020, we see the impressive growth of solar defying the odds to reach record-level installations. Looking forward, we have reason to remain positive, with the next four years expected to be extremely strong for the global solar sector. Indeed, by next year we anticipate the global solar market increase by 25 per cent to 203 GW, the first time annual PV installations will cross the 200 GW level. This is particularly impressive considering that crossing the 200 GW threshold in 2022 would occur only five years after the 100 GW level was reached. With COVID-19 vaccination rates increasing, and silicon supply issues resolved, the coming years will be sure to see many solar installation records broken.

Schmela added: “While it is certainly a cause for celebration that solar keeps surprising us with larger installation numbers, considering the fact that 70 per cent of global power still comes from non-renewable polluting energy, we need much more ambition from policymakers to enable the industry to accelerate deployment, to fulfil the complete potential of solar and meet the Paris Agreement targets.”

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