SIX MONTHS AGO, China’s policymakers set a new goal of more than quadrupling the country’s solar power generating capacity by 2015. The objective came against a background of an industry wracked by overcapacity and falling prices that has pushed companies like LDK Solar and JA Solar to the edge of bankruptcy, and Sun Tech over it. It was intended to restore the ailing industry’s health — more solar power plants will require more photovoltaic panels — and draw the sting from a series of trade disputes. It also fits with an overall goal of diminishing the country’s dependency on polluting fossil fuels.
Now the industry ministry has announced measures to help reach that goal, largely by driving industry consolidation and promoting standardization. It is also pushing the local generation of solar power in small-scale installations not connected to the power grid. That should promote technical innovation, as will R&D into batteries to store solar power. The package of measures is intended to avoid creating the trade frictions with the U.S. and the E.U. that China’s earlier support for its solar exporters caused. It will potentially provide more domestic work for China’s solar companies which together provide more than half the world’s solar panels — and have been accused of dumping them on international markets at below cost. Both the U.S. and the E.U. have imposed anti-dumping penalties.
China’s total installed solar power generating capacity increased by 8 gigawatts (GW) in 2013, of which 6 GW were at power plants and 2 GW were at decentralized installations, according to the China Photovoltaic Industry Alliance. If that initial estimate is confirmed it would mean capacity doubled last year. The raising last July of the country’s goal for 2015 to 35 GW from 21 GW requires another doubling of generating capacity over this year and next.