IEA: Mid-Term Renewable Energy Market Report

Global installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacities will more than triple to 230 GW in 2017, with concentrated solar power (CSP) capacities growing more than five-fold to 11 GW during that time, International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast in its "Mid-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2012" – the first medium-term report that the IEA has written on renewable energy.

The agency also predicts that solar thermal heating capacities will more than double to over 500 GW solar thermal in 2017. These predictions are part of an overall 40 percent growth in renewable energy generation forecast in the report.

Building on several years of strong deployment, renewable electricity growth should accelerate over the medium term. From 2011 to 2017 renewable electricity generation should expand by 840 terawatt-hours (TWh), almost 60 percent higher than the 160 TWh growth registered over the 2005-11 period. Global power generation from renewable sources stood at 540 TWh in 2011, 5.8 percent higher than in 2010, and is projected to reach almost 400 TWh in 2017 (+5.8 percent annually). Even as the annual average growth in renewable generation accelerates – to 5.8 percent over 2011-17 versus 5 percent over 2005-11 – expansion trends and geographies remain specific to technologies.

For non-hydropower sources (PV, CSP, wind energy, bioenergy for power, geothermal and ocean), the average percentage increase, at 14.3 percent annually, is somewhat slower than the 16.2 percent growth from 2005-11 as technologies continue to mature.

"Improved competitiveness with retail electricity prices and ease of installation should guide strong deployment of solar PV systems in the residential and commercial sectors in a number of countries, in addition to expected utility-scale expansions in areas with good resources," the report said.

"The supply availability of panels and components should remain ample, helping system costs to continue falling over the medium term. Still, the solar PV manufacturing sector should experience several years of consolidation in the face of weak profit margins."

The IEA predicts that installed PV capacity growth will be led by China at 32 GW, followed by the United States at 21 GW and Germany and Japan at 20 GW each. The agency also notes that changes in policy remain a "key forecast variable".

The IEA predicts that PV and CSP will together comprise 4.9 percent of 6,400 TWh of renewable energy generation forecast in 2017. The agency also predicts that 45 nations will install at least 100 MW of PV by 2017, up from 25 in 2011, and that 15 nations will deploy some level of CSP by 2017.

Looking at overall renewable energy growth, the IEA predicts that renewable energy generation will increasingly shift from the OECD to new markets, with non-OECD nations accounting for two-thirds of growth.

China again stands out as a leader, representing almost 40 percent of the 710 GW of new global renewable energy anticipated. The report also forecasts "significant" deployment in the US, India, Germany and Brazil.

Hydropower production has grown by 630 TWh since 2005, and in 2011 it accounted for 80 percent of total renewable generation. Going forward, hydropower will remain the largest contributor to total renewable generation. Although its share should diminish over time, the absolute increase in hydropower generation accelerates versus the previous decade. At 380 TWh in 2017, it should account for almost 70 percent of renewable electricity output. Over 2011-17, hydropower generation should grow on average by 120 TWh per year (or +3.1 percent) as capacity rises from 1 070 GW to 1 300 GW.

Hydropower represents an economically attractive source of renewable energy in countries with good resource potential. Indeed, untapped hydropower potential remains large on a global scale. For emerging and developing countries, deployment of hydropower is a good option for scaling up renewable generation and meeting power needs. For many of the countries, hydropower growth should also provide the flexibility needed for the integration of a projected, large amount of variable renewable electricity.

On the regional level, non-OECD Asia grows by 150 GW, with China (+110 GW) and India (+13 GW) accounting for most of the expansion. Large capacity additions should also take place in Latin America (+32 GW), with 21 GW in Brazil; OECD Europe (+19 GW); and Africa (+14 GW).