China solar installs could surpass 100 GW in 2023; EU leaders agree clean tech support

The solar news you need to know.

China set to install 95 GW-120 GW solar in 2023: trade body

China is expected to install a record 95 to 120 GW of solar power in 2023, a rise of up to 37% on 2022, Reuters reported February 16, citing information from a solar manufacturing association. The higher rate would see China exceed 500 GW of installed solar capacity by the end of the year.

Solar developers in China continue to face obstacles including mandatory requirements from some local governments to install energy storage alongside solar farms and restrictions on land and water usage in order to protect farmland, Wang Bohua, honorary chairman of the China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA), said at a conference.

Meanwhile, solar exporters are facing more trade disputes and tougher competition from the United States, the European Union and India, Wan noted.

"The trade barriers are bringing increasing difficulties for Chinese solar firms seeking to expand in overseas markets, and the rapid development of local manufacturers in those countries will hit China's solar manufacturing industry," Wang said.

China exported about 36.3 GW of solar wafers and 23.8 GW of solar cells in 2022, up 61% and 131% year-on-year, respectively, CPIA data showed.

However, exports of solar modules grew at a slower pace of 56% last year as more module plants have been built overseas.

The U.S. has banned imports from China's Xinjiang Province under its Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act (UFLPA), expanded tariffs on Chinese companies to key export countries in Southeast Asia, and launched a range of support measures for domestic manufacturing in its Inflation Reduction Act. The European Union is also ramping up support mechanisms in a bid to retain investments and expand its supply base.

"Chinese solar firms should pay greater attention to the competition, as the U.S., EU and other countries are putting in place policies and making actual moves to support their local industry," Wang said.

EU leaders agree 'targeted' support to counter U.S.

European Union leaders agreed on February 10 to provide "targeted, temporary and proportionate" support to clean technology companies in order to counter competition from the United States and China.

On February 1, the European Commission (EC) set out a Green Deal Industrial Plan to mobilise state aid and EU funding for clean technology companies and accelerate the permitting of manufacturing facilities.

The EC's plan, which must be agreed by EU members, comes as a lack of federal financing for solar and wind in Europe, along with volatile regulation and permitting challenges, are making the U.S. more attractive for investment.

President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act provides $369 billion of green subsidies, including tax credits that increase the profitability of U.S. solar and wind projects as well as new manufacturing facilities.

The EC proposes to loosen EU state aid rules until the end of 2025 to allow the bloc's 27 governments to help with investments in renewable energy or decarbonising industry.

EU members would be allowed to draw on existing EU funds, since national budgets differ between members, the EC said. The principal source of EU funding will be the 225 billion euros ($245 billion) of loans and 20 billion euros of grants remaining from the EU's 800 billion euro post-pandemic recovery fund.

                      Forecast largest EU solar markets in 2023-2026

                                                               (Click image to enlarge)

Source: SolarPower Europe, December 2022

Industry association SolarPower Europe welcomed the agreement by EU leaders, saying it would stimulate demand, but eleven EU countries urged "great caution" in relaxing the bloc's state aid rules, saying it risked damaging competition inside the bloc, a document showed.

The document dated Feburary 10 was sent to the bloc's executive European Commission and signed by Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Poland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Hungary, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Belgium, Reuters reported.

The EC confirmed the receipt of the letter and said it was looking to adopt new rules "in the coming weeks, taking into account the feedback received," Reuters said.

EC will also produce a Net-Zero Industry Act that includes measures to accelerate the permitting of clean technology factories. In December, EU energy ministers agreed temporary regulation that aims to shorten permitting times for renewable energy projects.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the act would be presented before the next scheduled meeting of EU leaders on March 23-24.

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