According to the latest report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable capacity across the globe is set to increase by as much as 50% between 2019 and 2024. Solar power is projected to account for much of this growth, contributing around 60% to the overall increase. Distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in domestic, commercial, municipal and industrial buildings are believed to be the largest growing sector.
In geographical terms, it’s highly likely that China will overtake the EU as the number one producer of distributed PV capacity. Indeed, that scenario could become a reality as soon as 2021, although other players, including the EU, Japan, South Korea, India and the USA are likely to witness increased uptake of the technology in the coming year as well.
A solar boom
Due to escalating concerns around the achievement of greenhouse gas emissions targets and falling prices for renewables in general, the six-year period between 2019 and 2024 is set to be an important one for solar PV power. Distributed PV capacity is projected to rise by more than 250% in that time period, reaching 530GW of installed capacity by 2024.
That’s a huge increase on the same sector from the period 2013 to 2018, with current expansion rates predicted to be over double. It’s expected that the majority of those new installations will occur in both the commercial and industrial sectors, given that PV energy is a more affordable proposition for organisations with consistent energy demands and stable load profiles, enabling them to take advantage of incentives and offers to increase their savings.
Consumer adoption could make big difference
The IEA has also compiled an “accelerated case” scenario which is largely dependent on residential buildings and individual consumers adopting the technology, as well. Although less predictable in their behaviour than other locations, the growth potential for residential addresses is significant because movement can become rapid once the price of solar PV drops to a level that makes the technology economically viable.
It’s estimated that residential solar PV capacity will increase from 58GW two years ago to 143GW four years from now, a 247% hike. Meanwhile, the amount being added to global capacity on an annual basis is expected to reach 20GW by the end of the forecast period, which is three times more than at its outset. As with many other facets of this issue, China is expected to lead the way in domestic solar PV expansion.
China at the forefront
Historically, China has endured a torrid reputation when it comes to its carbon emissions and its energy profile. However, improved environmental housekeeping around the refinery, alongside an ambitious attempt to transition towards renewables, has seen China make great strides towards cleaning up its act. In 2017, for example, the country spent $44 billion on sustainable energy production, which is more than the next 10 competitors combined.
All that investment appears to be paying off. Between 2013 and 2018, China added just 1GW of residential solar PV capacity increase; between 2019 and 2014, that figure is expected to shoot up to 35GW. In the accelerated case, it could even reach 49GW… and that’s before the booming Chinese commercial and industrial sectors are taken into account. While China’s reliance on coal still makes it the biggest polluter on the planet, it’s certainly moving in the right direction when it comes to renewables in general and solar power in particular.