The following is an edited excerpt from the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) report titled, “Snapshot of Global PV Markets 2021

At least 20 countries have installed more than 1 GW by 2020. Fourteen countries now have a total cumulative capacity of more than 10 GW, while five have capacity of more than 40 GW. China alone accounted for 253,4 GW, with the European Union (as EU27), which used to lead the rankings for years but now ranks second (151,3 GW), the United States third (93,2 GW), and Japan fourth (71,4 GW). 

Evolution of regional PV markets

China, Vietnam, the EU and the US, accounted for the majority of PV market growth in 2020. Other markets showed some growth, while India witnessed the most significant market decline of the year. 

Fortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic had no impact on market growth in 2020. The PV market’s durability in the face of massive economic and logistical disruptions is impressive, demonstrating the technology’s ability to mitigate the economic downturn and societal devastation caused by the COVID-19 epidemic.

Cumulative Installed Capacity in the World

With a total capacity of 253,4 GW, China continues to lead, followed by the European Union (151,2 GW), the United States (93,2 GW), Japan (71,4 GW), and India (47,4 GW). By 2020, Australia will have installed a total of 20,2 GW, Vietnam 16,4 GW, and Korea 15,9 GW.

Germany leads with 53,9 GW in the European Union, followed by Italy (21,7 GW), Spain (12,7 GW), France (10,9 GW), and the Netherlands (10,2 GW). All other countries are below the 10 GW mark.

Evolution of Regional PV Installations

While Europe was a crucial pioneer in the early development of PV, Asia’s part of the market began to increase fast in 2012 and hasn’t stopped since.

Asia continues to lead the global PV industry, with China leading the way. In 2020, certain well-established major Asian markets, such as China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia, saw growth, while India shrank. In 2020, Asian markets accounted for roughly 61 percent of the global PV market, a little rise from 2019 but consistent with recent years.

The market in the Americas grew somewhat, mostly due to the United States, which saw rapid growth in 2020. Brazil is the second largest market, followed by Mexico, Chile and Argentina with roughly 320 MW, a fall from its record level of 2019. In 2020, the market in Canada was again fairly small, with roughly 200 MW of installed capacity. In 2020, the Americas accounted for around 18% of the global PV market.

Germany led the European Union with 4,9 GW, a considerable rise for the third year in a row. The Netherlands, Spain, Poland, and Belgium were the next to reach the GW milestone with 1,0 GW. Other European countries, such as Hungary, the UK, and Switzerland, have seen fascinating changes. In 2020, Europe accounted for little more than 16 percent of the worldwide PV market. In 2020, Africa and the Middle East accounted for around 3% of worldwide PV installations.

Policy and Market Trends

Competitive Tenders & Merchant PV

Tenders were issued in a number of locations across the world at highly competitive costs, with prices as low as 20 USD/MWh in the sunniest locations. Winning bids as low as 20 USD/MWh have been reported in the Middle East, with prices as low as 14 USD/MWh in Portugal. The downward price trend continues, and most experts predict prices will continue to fall in the coming years.  

Prosumers Policies

PV producers’ status as “prosumers”- both producers and consumers of energy is fast developing, and legislation in numerous countries are being adjusted to reflect this. The first set of policies used to develop the market of small-scale PV installations on buildings were called “net-metering” policies and were adopted in a large number of countries, however, with different definitions.

The European Union established the notion of Renewable Energy Communities (REC) and Citizen Energy Communities (CEC) in the Clean Energy for All Europeans package (CEC). The defining of the perimeter and the tariffication for grid usage are two key components of REC, which should allow residents to sell renewable energy generation to their neighbours.

PV and Other Renewable Energy Evolutions

PV will be a critical component of the energy transition. When looking at the progress of renewable energy technology, this tendency is already obvious. PV technology has seen an ever-increasing market boom in the last 15 years as a result of technological and pricing advancements.

Solar PV will account for around 42% of total renewable power output from new production assets in 2020.

PV Fostering Development of a Cleaner Energy System

PV technology can act as a catalyst for other technologies that have the potential to combat climate change, in addition to directly combating growing CO2 emissions by providing an alternative to fossil-based power generation.

Given the necessity for seasonal storage, green hydrogen generation is likely to be a major technology for the energy transition.

  • The Colruyt Group established the first public hydrogen filling station in Belgium.
  • Hygreen Provence is a photovoltaic (PV) and power-to-gas (P2G) project in southern France. By 2027, it plans to produce 1 300 GWh of photovoltaic energy.
  • In the Fukushima prefecture of Japan, work on a large-scale hydrogen energy infrastructure has begun.
  • The development of a 2 MW commercial electrolyser has been announced in Switzerland.
  • In June 2020, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy unveiled a national hydrogen plan.
  • In Spain, a solar PV facility containing hydrogen has been planned to begin operations in 2021.

Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles (EV) are an important and relevant example of synergies between PV and other sectors.

The relationship between PV development and EVs is not well known yet, but it is quickly becoming a reality as self-consumption rules gain traction. Charging electric vehicles during peak demand hours necessitates a rethinking of power generation, whereas virtual self-consumption approaches might quickly offer a foundation for rapid PV expansion.

The rapid growth of the EV market may be likened to the rapid growth of the PV sector. With more than 3 million electric cars delivered in 2020, an increase of at least 40% over 2019, EV penetration is expected to break through faster than PV did at first.