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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Global solar power demand grew 50% in 2016 but fell in Europe

The on-grid solar power market grew by around 50% last year largely because of increased investment by China and the US, according to figures by SolarPower Europe.

Solar power capacities rose to around 76.1GW ©Shutterstock
Solar power capacities rose to around 76.1GW ©Shutterstock

The world’s largest increase was recorded in China which officially added 34.2GW to the grid in 2016, followed by the US which increased its share by 14GW, with Japan in third, and India fourth.

Collectively, solar power capacities rose to around 76.1GW worldwide last year, up from approximately 5.1GW in 2015, largely due to a fall in supply costs, however there are concerns about the EU’s contribution, which fell by 20%.

SolarPower Europe CEO, James Watson, said: “2016 will be remembered as the year that the first solar power purchase agreements were signed at levels that have made solar the lowest-cost power in many regions of the world.

“With clean solar being cheaper than inflexible generation technologies in much of Europe today, there is the need to drive the next solar investment cycle so we can pursue the decarbonisation of the European power sector.

“The clean energy package recently presented by the European Commission provides very concrete and actionable levers, though there is still room for improvement."

The global solar power market share for 2016 is shown below:

Source: SolarPower Europe
Source: SolarPower Europe

European countries installed approximately 6.9GW of solar power systems in 2016, compared with 8.6GW in the previous year, with SolarPower Europe now asking the European Parliament to create an ambitious governance framework to steer investment in clean energy.

“After having inspired so many regions in the world, Europe needs to find its own inspiration again and act as the leader of the energy transition,” SolarPower Europe, policy director, Alexandre Roesch, said.

“We need to build a major industrial project around solar and renewables. To start with, increasing the 2030 renewable energy target to at least 35% will send a strong signal that Europe is back in the solar business".

The solar market data is a first estimate from SolarPower Europe, based on official data from government agencies whenever possible, and will be updated.

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