Lightning-fast growth in China's solar power industry is set to provide opportunities to UK businesses over the next five years, according to China market research firm CCM.
Strong government support has sparked a boom in solar power in China – the country's installed PV capacity leapt to 18.6GW in 2013 from just 0.8GW in 2010 – and this fast growth is expected to continue as the rising superpower attempts to contain carbon emissions, reduce air pollution, and improve its energy security.
China is now expecting to reach 70GW of installed PV capacity by 2018 after the National Development and Reform Commission (NRDC) raised targets once again in May 2014, which will almost certainly make China the world's largest market for solar power. CCM's research indicates that this goal should be achieved comfortably, meaning that China's solar market should grow at least 40% per year over the next five years.
Almost all of this new capacity will be manufactured and installed by Chinese companies, but these companies are still dependent on imports for several key materials and technologies, which will provide excellent opportunities to UKbusinesses.
Materials that are in short supply in China include silver paste, TPT backsheets, EVA encapsulant film, and slurry material, and although China has made progress in developing large-scale polysilicon production facilities, 40-50% of its polysilicon needs are still filled through imports.
Moreover, China is still yet to develop the high-end equipment capable of producing high-purity polysilicon, so UK manufacturers of hydrogenation furnaces, large-scale casting furnaces, PECVD coating equipment, automatic screen printing presses, and other key technologies could also benefit.
Michelle Li, CCM's renewable energy market analyst, commented: “Solar power is the fastest-growing renewable energy market in China and has huge potential for further growth. China has already made great progress developing solar technology since 2009 and will ramp up its R&D investment further in the coming years, but there will still be opportunities for UK companies in several areas.
“Over the next five years, focus is likely to shift more towards distributed PV power generation, and China also needs to improve its grid connection as currently over 70% of its grid-connected PV capacity is situated in Northwest China, where grid systems are underdeveloped and cannot cope with the amount of power being generated.”
Further insight into China's renewable energy market will be available in CCM's upcoming report, China Renewable Energy Market and Future Prospects, which will be published in late February 2015. The report will offer a comprehensive overview of the state of renewable energy in China, including detailed analyses of the solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, geothermal, and ocean power markets.
The report will also provide key insights into how each market will develop over the medium to long term and the potential investment opportunities this development will create.