A recently published International Energy Agency (IEA) report indicates that solar energy is boosting the growth in renewable energy worldwide, with China at the front of the pack as the dominant player.
To be more specific, the report “Renewables 2017,” shows that photovoltaics grew at a faster rate than any other type of fuel during 2016 because of more cost reductions and support through government policy.
Renewables represented 65% of all new net electricity capacity; with 165GW clean energy capacity in 2016 coming online.
Solar capacity expanded by 50% compared to figures from 2015, reaching 74GW, with half being attributed to China.
In one projection by IEA for between 2017 and 2022, the agency predicts that the capacity of global renewable electricity would grow by more than 920GW which would represent an increase of more than 43% from 2016.
That prediction is far more optimistic that in 2016, as IEA used the impressive performance in China during 2016 as the basis for its forecast.
Just China represented 40% of the global renewables growth, driven for the most part by policies implemented to tackle the air pollution problems across the country and the ambitious targets for capacity outlined in its plan of five years to 2020.
The country has reached as well as surpassed its 2020 solar targets already and should reach its wind targets for 2020 during 2019.
China has become a key player in the market for commercial solar energy through decreasing the costs for solar power worldwide.
Currently, China represents 50% of the demand for global solar PV, while companies in China represent close to 60% of the annual capacity worldwide for solar cell manufacturing.
That means any development in the market or policy in China will have big implications for the demand, supply and prices across the globe.
However, all this is not without its challenges. China must address the growing cost for renewable subsidies as well as grid integration.
The country is already shifting to a quota system with green certificates and distancing itself from its Feed-
In Tariff program. It is also laying new transmission lines, and expanding distributed generation that should facilitate integration of renewables.
The second largest worldwide growth market for renewables is the United States, with its growth driven by tax incentives that are combined with its renewables portfolio standards as well as policies at the state level for distributed solar PV, such as in Hawaii and California.
However, uncertainty politically over proposed reforms in taxes, international trade, as well as energy policies might have big implications for growth in the future.