Solar energy takes the fast track
The Global Market Outlook 2023-2027 by the SolarPower Europe association expects the photovoltaic sector to continue to grow at a fast rate over the next years. Toward the end of the decade, the global operating capacity is expected to reach TW/year.
Over the next four years, the photovoltaic sector will continue to shine. This is what emerges from the annual solar power report, the Global Market Outlook For Solar Power 2023 - 2027, drafted by SolarPower Europe with the help of leading field associations worldwide. If installations in 2022 have helped generate 239 GW of new solar power - 45% more than the previous year - surpassing the global TeraWatt production threshold, the positive market trends in the first months of 2023 indicate a new boom: further 341 GW before December, equal to a 43% growth, and an installation diffusion rate 33% higher than previous forecasts. This propulsive thrust comes after the slowdown caused by the pandemic, geopolitical conflicts, the international energy crisis, interruptions to the procurement chains, and high raw materials and product prices. Critical issues that highlighted how, especially at political and institutional level, the only way to tackle unforeseeable events and their consequences is to produce renewable energy locally. And solar power, thanks to its extreme versatility, is key to reach these goals over the medium term.
“Your growing optimism is rooted in the new position of solar power as main player in the geopolitical energy map”, states the report. And actually, if last year the projection indicated a global installed capacity of 265 GW for 2023, the 341 GW of current previsions allow crossing a line that was deemed reachable by 2025, only a few years ago. This growth speed will allow a 42% increase in 2024, with 400 GW of annual installation; 47% for 2025 (432 GW); 54% for 2026 (534 GW), opening up to the possibility of reaching an operating capacity of 800 GW already in 2027, and TW/year globally before the end of the year. All those data concern the intermediate growth scenario, which has the greatest likelihood of occurring, even if the growing trust in the field offer/demand lead to thinking that we are heading toward a strong growth scenario, with an expected target of 402 GW during this year. The 2022 price increase has made the political need to work on measures promoting the development of renewable energy more and more compelling. If it’s true that, as Aristotelis Chantavas, President of SolarPower Europe, states, the crisis of fossil fuels, owned by very few Countries in the world, will never end, and so it is therefore necessary to rely on an accessible, democratic, and locally-produced solar power now more than ever, the transition can only accelerate.
In 2022, the number of Countries that registered the installation of at least 1GW has risen to 26, and the first ten include China, US, India, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Japan, Poland, Netherlands and Australia. The Asian-Pacific market (APAC) in general increased its dominant position at global level, reaching 60% of the annual installed capacity in 2022. China and India will dominate in 2023, with 79% of regional installations. The European solar market, second global leader in this field, is ready to grow, driver by the desire of energetic independence from Russian gas, and by regulatory initiatives and energy transition plans that follow the indications by the Green Deal and REPowerEU for carbon neutrality before 2050. Over 80% of the European markets has installed more solar power compared to the previous year, with Spain and Germany on the forefront, with 8.4 GW and 7.4 GW respectively; 2023 should register a substantial growth, with a prevision of 62.4 GW and a 3% annual increase. The American market share will remain stable at 17% for 2023, confirming its position as the third region for PV installations, with Brazil and the US as protagonist, where the approval of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in August 2022, with a deficit reduction to tackle inflation, has driven a series of massive investments in renewable energies.
Concerning Italy, despite the nearing end of the main incentive program for residential and accumulation PV plants, the GMO ration shows a good growth margin: from 2.5 GW of 2022 with a total of over 1.2 million PV plants (mostly residential, through the Superbonus 110% incentives), to just over 4 GW in 2023. Italian renewable energy associations - ANIE Rinnovabili, Elettricità Futura and Italia Solare - agree on the need to install at least 85 GW of new renewable capacity before 2030, to reach the goals of REPowerEU. PV plants represent 58 GW of these 85 GW. In order to reach them, an average annual growth of 6.5 GW in the 2023-2026 period is required. Considering that the market in 2023 will hardly reach 5 GW, there will be a significant growth in the 2024-2026 period. Conversion to renewable energy sources will require 320 billion euros of overall investments in the electric sector and in the related supply chain, with a return of 260 billion euros of total financial benefits, a reduction of 270 million tons of CO2 emissions, and up to 540,000 new jobs before 2030.
From theory to practice
According to the Global Market Outlook For Solar Power 2023 - 2027, all estimates are mainly based on a necessary change in perspective that gives solar power a crucial position on the energetic geopolitical mapand considers all its possible declinations and applications realistically: centralized utility-scale power factories, including innovative versions, such as agri-photovoltaic and floating solar plants, distributed generation on commercial and residential building roofs, as well as rapidly evolving applications, such as systems integrated in buildings, plug-in solar systems, parking lots, off-grid solutions, mobile power applications, and heat pump combinations, which, apart from the decarbonization in the heating and transport fields, give real power to consumers at local level. However, there are still obstacles, such as the limited network capacity and the lack of flexibility or storage of national electric systems, which should be overcome shortly. In its World Energy Outlook 2023, the International Energy Agency foresees that in 2023 investments in the solar field will exceed those in the petrol field for the first time; however, the commitment of all global governments to expand infrastructures and storage, and adopt a more ambitious approach to exploit the enormous potential of this field before the deadline set by the Paris Climate Agreement is fundamental.