With 11.8 GW of new solar power capacity installed during 2013, China has snatched the lead among global regions in terms of photovoltaics (PVs) connected to the grid, according to the latest annual report by the European Photovoltaics Industry Association (EPIA).
Regarded in the solar sector as one of the most reliable sources of information, the EPIA report reveals that China has made very rapid progress in the introduction of solar power. The latest PV capacity figure represents an increase of almost 30% compared to 2012. EPIA estimates that China now accounts for 43% of the solar energy market outside of Europe.
According to the report, China has managed to level with developed countries like the USA and Japan in the introduction of solar power. Meanwhile, despite its progress having slowed down to 11 GW of PVs introduced last year, Europe still houses more than half of the world's solar capacity. Right now, worldwide installed capacity amounts to 138.9 GW and Europe accounts for 81.5 GW of that.
China's acceleration is attributed to ambitious targets set by Beijing. In contrast, government support for solar has sharply declined in Europe as the generation of wind power takes priority. As a result, the solar market in Europe has slowed down significantly, the EPIA report points out. Administrative barriers like the removal of fixed feed-in tariffs in sunny locations such as Spain, Portugal and France have drastically affected solar installations there.
According to EPIA, global advancement will be driven by markets like China, Japan and the USA. The organization envisions a "medium" scenario where global cumulative capacity stands at about 375 GW in 2018, or double the capacity available at present. However, in a more "optimistic" but still plausible scenario, the figure could go as high as 430 GW, the report says.