PV production grows despite a crisis-driven decline in investment

Paul Boughton

Global production of photovoltaic (PV) cells grew by 10 per cent in 2012 in comparison to 2011 despite a 9 per cent decline in solar energy investments according to the annual PV Status Report released by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre. Europe remained a leader in newly installed capacities accounting for 51.7 per cent (16.8GW) of the 30GW installed worldwide.

Abundant solar resources in combination with zero emissions from solar installations have attributed to PV energy systems a key role in the transition to a low carbon energy supply. This potential has driven development of more efficient PV modules and transformed the sector into one of the fastest growing industries.

Production of PV cells and modules has gone from 46MW in 1990 to 38.5GW in 2012. Statistically documented cumulative installations worldwide accounted for almost 100GW in 2012 placing the EU in the lead position with its share of over 69GW.

Within the EU, Germany has kept its leading position in PV installation with an additional 7.6GW in 2012, while Italy's newly installed 3.5GW have allowed it to reach an electricity production covering 7.3 per cent of the total electricity demand during the first seven months of 2013.

A steep, 80 per cent drop of solar modules prices between 2008 and 2012, triggered by an overcapacity of production, created serious financial problems for manufacturers, but led to a consolidation of the industry and fuelled an extensive growth for the PV market in Asia: 60 per cent in 2012 and a projected 100 per cent in 2013. The rise in annual production has resulted in China and Taiwan to accounting for 70 per cent of the global production.

Even with the on-going difficult economic conditions, the number of the new PV markets is increasing. This, along with rising energy prices and the pressure to stabilise the climate will maintain a high demand for solar power systems. Electricity production from PV modules has already proved that it can be cheaper than current conventional consumer electricity prices in many countries. In addition, renewable energies which are not fuel-dependent, are, in contrast to conventional energy sources, among the technologies to offer the prospect of a reduction in prices.

The 12th edition of the PV Status Report provides an overview of the global PV market with a particular focus on manufacturing, policies, and implementation world-wide. The findings are based on the analysis of data retrieved from government bodies, research centres and industry leaders worldwide.

More than 350 companies across the globe produce solar cells. The report provides a description of the 20 largest in terms of production and shipments, analyses the PV market per country and considers electricity costs and economics of PV systems.

For more information, visit http://iet.jrc.ec.europa.eu/remea/pv-status-report-2013

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