China looks set to maintain its position as global leader when it comes to solar energy.
According to analysis by GlobalData, China’s investment in photovoltaic (PV), or solar energy, is set to reach $23.6bn in the next three years. By comparison, Japan’s budget will be less than half at just $10.2bn.
Up until 2014 Japan invested far more than China in solar, outspending the country by some $7bn in that year alone.
This comes after news yesterday that China is now the world’s biggest producer of solar power. A recent report by the country’s National Energy Administration (NEA) demonstrated that China’s PV capacity rose to 77.42 gigawatts at the end of 2016. With the increase in investment over the next three years, the NEA intends to add more than 110 gigawatts of capacity by 2020.
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The total global investment in PV is set to be over $73bn in 2020. Asia-Pacific is considered the driving force behind it, as the region currently accounts for 41.3 percent of the global renewable energy market – worth approximately $248.5bn in 2015.
The reason for this increased investment in solar is in part due to advances in the technologies that are more efficient than current silicon cells. According to a report by Statista:
“The utilisation of multi-junction cells with several layers that can harvest energy from different parts of the solar spectrum may be undertaken to dramatically increase solar power in the near future.”
In addition, Greenpeace’s Global Solar Thermal Electricity Outlook 2016 report forecast that we will see an uptake in solar thermal electricity (STE).
This form of renewable energy produces heat or generates electricity by using mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays to a temperature between 400°C and 1000°C. In the past 10 years, this type of technology has expanded rapidly and is now regarded as a reliable, energy generation solution.
Greenpeace believes that this kind of technology could meet up to 12 percent of the world’s projected power needs in 2050.
In the past 10 years, this type of technology has expanded rapidly and is now regarded as a reliable, energy generation solution. Greenpeace believes that this kind of technology could meet up to 12 percent of the world’s projected power needs in 2050.
Despite the positive influence from the investment by China in solar power and the new technologies entering the sector that will help to make a reliance on solar energy possible, the outlook for PV isn’t so sunny.
GlobalData has forecast that there will be a drop in investment in solar power in the US, down from a peak of $15.3bn in 2014 to just $5bn in 2020. This is worrying as the US is the second biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions.
One reason for the decline in investment is due to the phased reduction of the solar investment tax credits (ITC) after 2019, which allows individuals to claim tax credits when they install solar panels on their property. This policy is to be eliminated in 2022.
In addition, we will also see lack of investment in the sector if president Trump chooses to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
If the US does decide to stop investing in renewable energy and focus more on fossil fuels, this could have a damaging impact on the rest of the world.
Professor Corinne Le Quere , director of the Tyndall Centre for climate change research and professor at the school of environmental sciences at the University of East Anglia (UEA) told Verdict:
“The support or lack of support for renewable energy and for energy efficiency will make a difference because the US is very innovative – a lot of the innovation in battery storage for example and innovation in efficiency and appliances, have come from the US.”