Although China’s 112 gigawatts of installed solar capacity already exceed the country’s 2020 target, the rising cost of Chinese panels could make it harder for India to get solar electricity projects off the ground.
“Solar power projects bid at low tariffs may be at risk, as the prices of photovoltaic panels have risen amid a push in the U.S. to impose anti-dumping duty on cheaper imports from China,” Bloomberg Quint reports. Prices are up 20% in the last six months, to 35¢ per watt, a development that “may be a setback, at least in the short term, to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s target to install 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022.”
Panels account for more than half the cost of an installation, and 84% of India’s panels currently come from China, according to renewables consultancy Bridge to India.
India had been posting astonishingly low solar project costs in recent months. But “the trend reversed after Suniva, a U.S.-based solar manufacturer that has filed for bankruptcy, [approached] the U.S. International Trade Commission in April to impose anti-dumping duty and a global tariff on Chinese imports,” Bloomberg notes. “Ironically, Suniva is majority owned by a Chinese company, Shunfeng.” Prices rose after American rooftop solar companies began increasing their inventories ahead of the possible trade action.
The Bloomberg post on Renewable Energy World traces a series of factors contributing to India’s sudden price challenge.
China itself, by contrast, is ahead of target, with new installations of “a stunning 35 gigawatts in just seven months—more than twice as much as installed by any other country in all of 2016,” Greenpeace analysts Jing Yan and Lauri Myllyvirta report on EcoWatch. “As a result, total solar PV capacity now exceeds the government’s 2020 goal of 105 GW, set as recently as last year.”
The country marked the occasion by setting a new 2020 capacity target of 213 GW—five times more than current solar capacity in the United States. “Current growth rates suggest China could even surpass that new, higher target,” Yan and Myllyvirta note, and Chinese wind generation is also tracking far ahead of target—although the country still faces challenges with grid curtailment that will only be solved if key provinces make better use of the installed renewables they already have, even if it means taking on an entrenched coal industry.