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19 May 2022

Solar jumps 12% in 2021, with the Americas accelerating fast

Global solar installations have increased by 12.2% year on year, from 146.5 GW in 2020 to 164.3 GW in 2021, according to Rethink Energy data tracking – a little lower than our 169 GW prediction. Regional year-on-year growth rates were:

  • 13.9% in China
  • 20.1% in Europe
  • 24.4% in the USA
  • 318% in India – but 18.1% if compared to what 2020 would have been without lockdowns
  • A fall of 10.7% in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan
  • 39.4% in Latin America

Just like 2020, demand for photovoltaics skyrocketed in 2021, but this time around supply was limited: without supply chain issues over 200 GW might have been built. Supply and demand will be just as tight in 2022 – but with even higher values for both.

We project 204.3 GW to be installed during 2022.

The yellow line in the graph above shows what percentage of national capacity was installed in 2021, identifying highly active newcomer markets Poland, (47%), Chile (45%) and Brazil (33%).

Of the three largest countries China installed 54.88 GW throughout 2021, exceeding its previous record year of 53 GW in 2017 with 25.6 GW being utility-scale and 29.3 GW on rooftops. It still has many massive desert complexes under development: which will slowly reassert the dominance for utility solar over the next few year.

We expect Chinese solar installations to reach 75 GW in 2022, rising to 208 GW by 2030 with a total capacity of 1.5 TW, by that time.

US installations grew by 24.4% to 24.3 GW, with the already large utility-scale segment growing year-on-year by 27.8% and the rooftop sector losing ground up 16.3%.

As time goes on the re-establishment of the Investment Tax Credit subsidy will be critical to maintain momentum while the re-shaping of Net Metering laws in two major states (California and Florida) undermines rooftop momentum.

India installed 11.9 GW of solar, boosted by leftover projects from the 2020 lockdown period and by a rush to install them ahead of a new tariff on solar imports.

While India has recovered from the lockdowns of 2020 and its solar market will consistently grow,  it would be even more active without high module prices. Indian utility-scale solar is among the cheapest in the world, which means modules can cost as much as 40% to 50% of a project’s total investment cost, making this market highly sensitive to the supply chain disruption of 2021 to 2023.

The Indian government has waived its import tariffs to compensate, but only temporarily.

More details are contained in our quarterly update which will be published in full for subscribers in the Research and Data segment of our website and mailed to existing customers, giving details of installs across Europe, East Asia and Latin America. This will be followed next week with our annual forecast for solar out to 2050.