At least 51 GW of Global PV Installations in 2015

By Gaëtan Masson, Director @ Becquerel Institute


At least 51 GW of PV systems were installed in 2015.

After 37 GW in 2013 and 40 GW in 2014, 2015 was a year of growth – again – for the PV market.

Major growth episodes in the PV history were all triggered by a rapid acceleration of PV installations in key markets, together with the absence of major market bursts. And this is again what happened in 2015: China, the US and India developed fast, Europe – thanks largely to the sole UK market –  while Japan maintained its high level of installations. In parallel dozens of countries continued to install or emerged, with 2015 newcomers such as Algeria, Pakistan or Honduras.

The numbers are not definitive since many countries haven’t yet published official statistics and it could still vary significantly depending on the final numbers from the four main markets that drove the growth in 2015 : China, Japan, the USA and the UK. For all of these markets, the current numbers are estimates that are anyway indicating several interesting trends:

  • The very first one is the continuous involvement of China that continued developing PV at a faster speed that in the recent past. Meanwhile, preliminary numbers, if they are confirmed, are showing that the optimistic targets defined by the authorities haven’t been met again. Grid connection issues and the speed at which the distributed PV market growths can explain this situation that is far from being an unique case in the world.
  • The second one is the rapid development of utility-scale PV plants in new markets. One can consider that this development is far from being sustainable since it is mostly driven by tenders, rather than the willingness of consumers to become prosumers. These installations, that all completely policy-driven, allowed PV to develop in many new countries and especially in emerging economies.
  • The third one is the confirmation that PV is now global: all continent have reached the GW mark of cumulative capacity and also, this is even more important, a GW-scale market (if Africa is counted together with the Middle East).
  • The fourth one is the apparent comeback of Europe thanks to one single country performance. The so-called old continent remains the sick man of the PV world, with at least ten former markets failing to recover from the recent bursts.
  • The last one is the announced and expected emergence of India as a major actor in the global PV market. Despite a relatively modest level of installations, the trend is now clearly positive.

51 or 59 GW ?

Last year, the PV Market Alliance, that we co-founded, announced in January that 40 GW of PV installations were reached, far below the level announced by many consultancies. Several months later, the International Energy Agency confirmed this global number. This year, the history seems to repeat itself, and the 51 GW that we announce right now look extremely modest in comparison with the previous announcements from consultancies betting on a market in between 56 and 59 GW.

In our joint Global PV Market Report, published last year, we announced 52 GW as a pivot number, with a possibility to reach 60 GW under the most optimistic scenario. While these 51 GW are not a definitive number, they indicate anyway, if they were proven right in the coming months, that the growth of the PV market can be constrained by the lack of infrastructure, the inadequacy of regulations and the cost of financing. This is the main lesson of the last three years that should be considered carefully by all observers and actors of the PV market: the more PV will develop, the more it will be constrained by weak grids, incumbent players afraid of losing their monopoly and energy administrations unable to adapt legislations in due time.

Finally, Chinese and Japanese numbers are not out yet and could reveal some surprises, possibly adding some GWs to the 51 ones already identified and confirmed.

10 years ago, the market was barely above the GW mark and now, with more than 50 GW installed in a year, PV will enter unchartered territories. High PV penetrations constraining the entire electricity sector will complicate the growth in already developed PV markets, while emerging markets will experience the difficulties that have been partially solved in the first ones.

With this first estimate, I’m pleased, on behalf of all my colleagues of the PV Market Alliance, AECEA in China, CREARA in Spain, RTS Corporation in Japan and SPV Market Research in the USA, to wish you a happy and successful year 2016. May we reach the 60 GW !