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© Depositphotos | jpldesigns | China’s change in solar policy has big implications for the global market.

China’s Bombshell Solar Policy Shift Could Cut Expected Capacity by 20 Gigawatts

Demand in China exceeding expectations? Analysts say “that is not going to be the case anymore.”

 China’s recently announced changes to national solar policies will bring significant impacts for the global PV market and possibly the first contraction in global PV demand since before 2000, according to GTM Research. 

The country’s National Energy Administration, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Finance released new guidance that terminates any approvals for new subsidized utility-scale PV power stations in 2018.

China will also reduce its feed-in tariff for projects by RMB 0.05 per kilowatt-hour (a fraction of a U.S. cent), cap distributed project size at 10 gigawatts (down from 19 gigawatts), and mandate that utility-scale projects go through auctions to set power prices. Projects connected to the grid past June 1 will not receive feed-in tariffs. 

In all, the changes will significantly chill growth in a country that’s driving the global solar market. 

 “When the industry talks about China, it’s always about how demand in the region exceeds expectations,” said Jade Jones, a senior solar analyst at GTM Research. “That is not going to be the case anymore.” 

The changes could cut China’s capacity forecast by 40 percent, to 28.8 gigawatts from 48 gigawatts, according to GTM Research. Wood Mackenzie projects a cut of 20 gigawatts this year, down to just 30 gigawatts. Other projections put 2018 capacity closer to 35 gigawatts.

 Because of China’s outsized positioning, the global market will certainly take a hit, at least in the short term. Three years ago, China became the world’s leader in solar capacity. In 2017 it accounted for nearly 54 percent of global PV installations. 

The policy changes are an effort to stem the country’s ballooning subsidy costs, which rang in at RMB 100 billion (about $15.6 billion) last year. China hasn’t been able to pay out those sums. Wood Mackenzie projected they may reach RMB 250 billion (about $39 billion) by 2020.

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GTM Research 2018

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