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China & Japan Solar Boom A Huge Turning Point For Solar PV Industry

A leading solar market research firm, NPD Solarbuzz, projects that the booming solar markets in China and Japan are turning this ship around (the broader solar industry ship). In other words, solar corporate margins are shifting to positive thanks to a huge boom in solar PV growth in from the Asia Pacific region, led by China and Japan. I think those of us who follow the industry closely already had a pretty good sense of that, but nice to see it (almost) confirmed. Nonetheless, there’s still a lot of uncertainty that is based on uncertain solar and global warming policies in the region. Here are more details from Solarbuzz:

Solar photovoltaic (PV) demand from China and Japan during 2H’13 is forecast to reach 9 GW, representing an increase of 100% compared to 1H’13 and 70% compared to 2H’12. Overall, PV demand from the Asia Pacific (APAC) region will exceed 16 GW during 2013, up 90% Y/Y, and will account for over 40% of global PV demand this year, according to findings in the new NPD Solarbuzz Asia Pacific Major PV Markets Quarterly.

“The record level of PV shipments to China and Japan coincides with corporate margins returning to positive territory and the final shakeout phase of uncompetitive manufacturers nearing completion,” according to Finlay Colville, vice president at NPD Solarbuzz. “Having entered 2013 with a highly cautious outlook, tier-one suppliers are poised to exit the year with restored confidence, ahead of optimistic shipment and margin guidance for 2014.”

China is forecast to become the top country for PV deployment in 2013. During Q2’13, rooftop installation demand in China exceeded ground-mount installations for the first time, stimulated by government plans to develop the distributed generation segment. However, as bottlenecks related to project financing and grid accessibility for solar farms are resolved, 2H’13 will see strong ground-mount deployment from China Power Investment, China Guangdong Nuclear, Three Gorges Group, and other utility developers.

Japan continues to be the most active PV market this year, with growth of 150% in 2013 compared to the prior calendar year and a forecast of over 5 GW in the pipeline for installations before the end of Q2’14. PV demand in Japan during 2H’13 will be driven by the commercial and utility segments with 65% market share, in contrast to 2H’12 when the residential segment accounted for over 75% of demand.

Within the other key APAC markets, Australia and India, solar PV demand is being affected by policy disruptions. India is subject to delays in Phase II of the National Solar Mission, the ongoing anti-dumping case, and the prospect of reduced feed-in-tariff (FIT) payments. Within Australia, forthcoming elections and uncertainty over the future of the carbon tax and the Renewable Energy Target are also hindering growth.

While China and Japan are currently fuelling project pipelines, demand from the APAC region remains highly dependent on Chinese and Japanese FITs. In Japan, the market is also showing signs of strain: module shortages have been reported, and developers are being forced into remote geographic areas.

“End-market growth in China and Japan has become essential to support domestic manufacturers and project developers, in addition to contributing to renewable targets,” added Colville. “However, we do not yet know how far the subsidies will be reduced during 2014 or how much capacity can be added before market caps on annual PV installations will become necessary.”

For more information about the Asia Pacific Major PV Markets Quarterly, contact NPD Solarbuzz at one of seven global locations, email contact@solarbuzz.com, or call Charles Camaroto at 1.516.625.2452.

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