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Green Globe: Chinese solar firms look for renewed activity in 2019

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Green Globe: Chinese solar firms look for renewed activity in 2019

Battered by reduced government subsidies and the trade dispute with the U.S., the solar industry in China could see project development pick up again in the second half of 2019, after authorities confirmed the level of solar feed-in-tariff payments starting in July.

The FIT payments are at 40 Chinese yuan per kWh for ground-mounted projects in northern China, up to 45 yuan/KWh for large-scale projects in western and central China and up to .55 yuan per kWh for similar projects in the rest of the country, according to pv magazine.

However, the issued FIT payments are "for guidance and subject to competition." The Asia Europe Clean Energy (Solar) Advisory recently lowered its estimate for new photovoltaic capacity in the Asian country to a range of 32 GW to 34 GW, from 35 GW to 40 GW.

China installed 5.2 GW of new solar capacity in the first quarter of 2019, according to Reuters.

The FIT payments are intended to replace direct subsidies from the central government and make solar projects operate at "grid parity," pv magazine said.

Reduced public subsidies and competition to secure FIT payments are not the only pressures on the Chinese solar industry. U.S. President Donald Trump's trade war tweets have added pressure on Chinese solar companies like Panda Green Energy Group Ltd. and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. Ltd. that are already struggling with huge debts. A 25% increase to tariffs, as proposed by the Trump administration, would affect inverters imported by the U.S. from China.

Still, some Chinese solar firms have continued to succeed in despite the trade war. Bloomberg News said LONGi Green Energy Technology Co. Ltd. was the best performer among the 15 global solar energy companies that it tracks. The company, which focuses on higher-value products, saw its shares rise 173% since Trump assumed office in January 2017.

Sweden is considering increasing its solar capacity as a way to reduce fossil fuel power generation, according to pv magazine.

Swedish energy agency Energimyndigheten sees solar contributing 5 TWh in more wind-dependent scenarios and up to 25 TWh in its most ambitious forecast. Achieving even the lower contribution, however, would require a solar revolution in the Scandinavian country.

Public opposition to large-scale solar plants is strong, and solar generation is more expensive than wind in the country. Energimyndigheten is looking at requiring new buildings to install rooftop solar arrays to address the opposition to large-scale facilities.

Sweden's draft integrated national energy and climate plan targets zero net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2045. It also aims for 100% renewable electricity production by 2040, which does not necessarily mean closing the country's nuclear power plants by that year.

Ethiopia is seeking prequalifications from developers for 750 MW of solar projects covering six sites. The African country originally requested 500 MW across four sites, according to Renewables Now.

The tender is the second round of the World Bank Group's Scaling Solar program. The first round, for 250 MW of solar capacity, is currently in the procurement process. It has identified 12 bidders to compete, pv magazine reported.

The solar tender is intended to reduce Ethiopia's dependency on hydropower. Ethiopia had 3,810 MW of installed hydropower generation capacity as of 2017.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce's Export.gov website, Ethiopia has the potential to generate over 60,000 MW of electric power from hydroelectric, wind, solar and geothermal sources.

The country has developed less than 5% of its hydropower potential and less than 1% of its solar and wind potential.

Elsewhere

* APA Group has started operations of its 130-MW Badgingarra wind farm in Australia, according to the Government of Western Australia.

* Sungrow Power Supply Co. Ltd. signed an agreement to supply central inverter solutions to Enel Green Power's 400-MW photovoltaic farm in Copiapó, Chile.

* The European Union is investing €165 million to support renewable energy development in Nigeria, according to state-owned Voice of Nigeria.

* ACWA POWER, Gulf Investment Corp. and Alternative Energy Projects Co. agreed to develop a 500-MWac solar photovoltaic plant in Oman with the Oman Power and Water Procurement Co.

As of May 16, US$1 was equivalent to 6.88 Chinese yuan.

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