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European solar additions set to rebound amid widening forecast range: SPE

London — * Solar lobby sees growth rebound to 9 GW in mid-range 2017 scenario
* European capacity forecast at between 138 GW and 203 GW by 2021
* Global solar PV capacity set to double to 600 GW by 2020

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European solar additions are forecast to rebound sharply after falling to a seven-year low in 2016, with European solar association SPE forecasting some 9 GW of new additions in its mid-range scenario for 2017 amid a widening range in its forecasts through to 2021.

Solar Power Europe's annual five-year outlook published Tuesday at the Intersolar trade fair forecasts capacity additions in a range of 5.8 GW to 12.4 GW for this year, with the annual forecast range widening to between 8.1 GW and 27.3 GW by 2021.

Solar additions across Europe plunged 22% on year in 2016 to just 6.7 GW, the lowest annual growth since 2009, it said.

Europe's cumulative solar PV capacity could nearly double to 202.9 GW by the end of 2021 from 104.3 GW installed by 2016, with the mid-range scenario forecast pegged at 167.2 GW, averaging over 12 GW of additions each year.

Its low scenario forecasts just 33.6 GW of new additions over the next five years, with an annual average of just 6.7 GW taking capacity to 137.9 GW by 2021.

In Europe, the political support prospects for solar are not as bright as elsewhere for the coming years, SPE said.

The solar "weather outlook" for European countries remains still mostly cloudy but shows increasingly sunny areas and just one rainy spot, the Brussels-based lobby group said, adding that the UK is the only European country expected to add less new solar power year on year until 2019.

Only two European markets are forecast to remain in the global top ten over the next five years. Germany will be the largest European market, adding as much as 12.5 GW of cumulative growth to 2021 (up from 8.7 GW in last year's forecast), with France potentially adding more than 8 GW (up from 6.3 GW in last year's forecast), it said.


Globally, 2016 was another record year with global annual solar additions growing by 50% to 76.6 GW, it said.

Total worldwide grid-connected solar power generation capacity was pegged at 306.5 GW by end-2016 and is forecast to double to more than 600 GW by 2020, it said.

"After the 300 MW milestone was reached in 2016, we expect the total global installed PV capacity to exceed 400 GW in 2018, 500 GW in 2019, 600 GW in 2020 and 700 GW in 2021," SPE said in its annual five-year outlook. However, as in Europe the global forecast ranges are also widening with the 2021 total installed capacity forecast ranging between a high scenario forecast of 936 GW and a 623 GW low scenario forecast, it said. China, India, the US and Japan are the key markets globally.

The report highlights the rapidly decreasing cost of solar, which continues to improve its competitiveness and is the major driver for solar's global success story.

"All solar tenders awarded since 2016 are lower than the price guarantee the UK government signed for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant last year," it said.

A new world-record low 25-year solar power supply contract was awarded in Abu Dhabi in 2016 for $24.4/MWh (2.4 cents/kWh), it said, adding that this is reflected in 2017's report being more optimistic on solar growth than previous editions.

"If policy makers get things right by addressing the needs for a smooth energy transition, such as through establishing the right trade policy, electricity market design and renewable energy frameworks, solar demand could increase much faster," said Michael Schmela, executive adviser at SolarPower Europe and lead author of the Global Market Outlook.

--Andreas Franke,
--Edited Alisdair Bowles,