European PV Markets Continue Growth, But Must Adjust To Changing Conditions


Solar PV continued its remarkable growth trend in 2011, even in the midst of a financial and economic crisis and as the PV industry entered a period of consolidation, according to Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics Until 2016, a new report from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA).

As they have for the past decade, PV markets again grew faster than anyone had expected – both in Europe and around the world, the EPIA says. The new report is based on an internal analysis of data from industry members, national associations, government agencies and electric utilities.

Major findings for 2011 include the following:

– A total of 29.7 GW of PV systems was connected to the grid in 2011, up from 16.8 GW in 2010. In terms of installed systems, the estimated numbers are a minimum of 24.7 GW in 2011 – up from a maximum of 21.8 GW in 2010.

– With approximately 70 GW cumulative global installations, PV is now the third most important renewable energy source in terms of globally installed capacity (following hydro and wind power).

– Europe still accounts for the predominant share of the global PV market, with 75% of all new capacity in 2011. Italy was the top market for the year, with 9.3 GW connected, followed by Germany with 7.5 GW. Italy and Germany accounted for nearly 60% of global market growth during the past year.

– China was the top non-European PV market in 2011, with 2.2 GW installed, followed by the U.S., with 1.9 GW.

Such a rapid growth rate cannot be expected to last forever, however, the EPIA warns.

‘The PV industry is now weathering a period of uncertainty in the short term,’ says Dr. Winfried Hoffmann, president of EPIA. ‘But over the medium- and long term, the prospects for continued robust growth are good.

‘The results of 2011 – and, indeed, the outlook for the next several years – show that under the right policy conditions, PV can continue its progress towards competitiveness in key electricity markets and become a mainstream energy source,’ Hoffmann adds.

PV is now a significant part of Europe's electricity mix, producing 2% of the demand in the European Union and roughly 4% of peak demand.

‘Policy support has been crucial to getting PV to this place in its development – just as it was crucial to helping develop all other energy sources (fossil and nuclear) in the past,’ Hoffmann says. ‘But now PV needs to demonstrate that it is on the way to becoming a mature industry, ready for the next stage of its development.’

The full report is available here.

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