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Asia Report: Five Reasons Why China's Solar Demand Could Surprise You

Analysis of Chinese government policies at several levels suggest Chinese solar market growth could take off in late 2013 after a slow start to the year, as various projects finish their development phase and new incentives kick in.

Deutsche Bank analyst Vishal Shah lists five reasons that China's solar demand could exceed expectations:

- Project economics are attractive. Internal rates of return are in the low- to mid-teens for some utility-scale projects, and low-cost financing is being made available from central government policy initiatives.

- Companies are heading downstream. "Relatively attractive project economics" are luring more companies into that side of the sector. Project development typically takes 12-18 months, so look for the backlog to grow "exponentially over the next two years," Shah says.

- Local incentives emerge. Several provinces are announcing local incentives to promote growth, and most of China's 31 provinces should be offering something over the next year.

- Easier approvals leasing options. Companies and local governments should improve land and financing constraints, and also come up with leasing business models for residential/commercial solar, Shah predicts.

- A rush for central FITs. With central government feed-in tariffs (FIT) likely to be revisited annually, look for a rush of installations nearing the ends of both 2013 and 2014.

Shah predicts Chinese solar demand could rise to 13-15 GW in 2014. Combined with Japan's surging market (which he pegs at 6-7 GW next year), those two Asian nations could account for almost half of total global shipments next year, which he says could reach 50 GW. (Which, he adds, would create a shortfall of polysilicon of around 40,000-45,000 metric tons.)

IN THE NEWS

Will India's Account Deficit Derail the National Solar Mission? The rising current account deficit in India reaching new highs, non-enforcement of solar power purchase obligations, and slow sale of renewable energy certificates are "a bitter pill" for India's solar energy sector, and the second phase of the National Solar Mission is feeling the squeeze, explains Bhupesh Trivedi.

Renewable Energy Lift in Australia: Data from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) reveals the extent of renewable energy integration in Australia, across a number of metrics. Nearly a third of South Australia's total energy came from renewable sources in 2012 and 2013, with more than 1.2 GW of wind energy and 400 MW of solar PV, and only one or two large-scale projects could push that to 50 percent renewables and 60 percent is in reach if infrastructure is built out. More than a quarter of the region's power comes from wind energy. And one in five houses in South Australia has a rooftop solar array, which AEMO says could surge to one in two homes in the next 10 years.

Toshiba Getting Into Wind Power Generation: Toshiba Corp. is acquiring Sigma Power Janex Co. and its two wind farm operations in Kyushu, plus another one scheduled to come online in 2014, and four more in the pipeline in the Tohoku, Chugoku and Shikoku regions. The acquisition, spurred by the government's feed-in tariff (FIT) system, will "promot[e] synergies between the engineers who develop the equipment and those who deploy and use it," according to the company.

Chinese Wind Turbine Firm Seeks Indian Deal: Global Wind Power seeks approval to sell its new 1.5-MW turbine in India, a deal seen as opening the door for more favorable financing from Chinese lenders to build wind farms in India. The turbine will be submitted next month to the Centre for Wind Energy Technology, and approval is expected in about a month.

Indonesian Biomass Could Meet Korean Demand: South Korea, which currently gets nearly two-thirds of its electricity from fossil fuels, sees Indonesia as one avenue to further embrace renewable energy under a 2012 mandate. Addressing a business forum in Jakarta, Han Gyu-seong, chairman of the Korean Pellet Association. Korea imported about 70 percent of its 174,000 tons of biomass pellet consumption last year, and could nearly triple its pellet demand this year to 500,000 tons. Indonesia is potentially a key supplier, offering cheaper pellets (US $131/ton) than Korea's current imports from Malaysia ($141/ton) and Vietnam ($144/ton). Representatives from both nations expressed interest in collaboration to further develop a biomass supply chain, which should include government support for plantation forests and logging waste.

Building T&D in Northwest India: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has committed $500 million in multi-trance financing to build a power transmission system in India's northwest state of Rajasthan to connect new wind and solar power projects to the state and national grids. The system will span 1,850 km of lines mostly in the western part of the state, which aims to develop 8 GW of solar and wind generation capacity by 2018, contributing to the national Jawaharlal Nehru Solar Mission (JNNSM) goals of 20 GW of solar power capacity by 2022.

PPA Delays in India's Andhra Pradesh: India's Andhra Pradesh state initially hoped to allocate 1 GW of capacity, but due to revised tariffs and depreciation of the Rupee only about 60 MW of power purchase agreements have been signed with another 80 MW in the works, notes Bridge to India. The state has offered PPAs to developers who want the same tariff of INR 6.49/kWh, which could resurrect about 500-MW of additional capacity, they note, and if the state extends the deadline beyond this week more developers should participate.

Wind Energy Records Fall in Australia August was a record-breaking month for wind energy output in Australia. Wind farms in South Australia provided roughly 38 percent of the state's power in August, smashing the previous record of around 31 percent, while other records were set in Victoria, Tasmania, and New South Wales, according to the Clean Energy Council. In total the nation's wind farms generated eight percent of the power in the National Electricity Market, roughly more than 1,000 GWh. That, the group notes, is enough to make more than 6 billion toasted sandwiches, nearly enough for every human on earth.

Wind Energy Project in Pakistan: Sapphire Textile Mills Ltd. aims to set up a 50-MW wind power project in Jhimpir. Backers include Bank Alfalah Ltd and the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC). Turbines will be supplied by GE, contracted from Hydro China.

Solar Energy Development in Canberra: Canberra, Australia, has received the green light for two large-scale solar projects: Zhenfa's 13-MW Mugga Lane Solar Park, and Elementus Energy's 7-MW OneSun Capital Solar Farm. They were selected to receive grants of FIT entitlement following the ACT Government's RFP in January 2012 for 40-MW of large-scale solar generation capacity.


A DEEPER LOOK

More On China, Japan Solar Dominance: Solar PV demand in China and Japan should double in the second half of this year to 9 GW, according to NPD Solarbuzz. Solar PV demand in the entire Asia-Pacific region will surpass 16 GW for the year, a 90 percent increase and accounting for 40 percent of global demand. "The record level of PV shipments to China and Japan coincides with corporate margins returning to positive territory and the final shakeout phase of uncompetitive manufacturers nearing completion, stated Solarbuzz VP Finlay Colville. He especially called out utility-scale ground-mount deployment from China Power Investment, China Guangdong Nuclear, Three Gorges Group, and others.

Meanwhile, despite a surging market on the demand side, there remains "chaos and uncertainties" especially among Chinese solar PV manufacturers. Lux Research outlines the challenges and strategies for these solar companies during the anticipated consolidation. (Hint: top-tier companies will survive and thrive.)

Solar Policies Attract Foreign Investment to India: India's solar installations this year totaled 622 MW through August, but only 73 MW in the past quarter. Mercom Capital Group's Raj Prabhu explores the shifting fundamentals of India's solar sector, from rising panel prices to a falling rupee to policy changes and delays, and he relates what he's hearing on the ground from all levels: manufacturers, developers, policy makers, and investors.


ON THE HORIZON

Megasolar Projects in Xinjiang, China: Shunfeng Investment and Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) have agreed to a pair of large-scale solar development projects, for which XPCC "could provide certain preferential treatment." The first deal will establish a 500-MW solar power station in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on roughly 900 hectares of land provided by XPCC, with completion by the end of October 2017 and projected investment of RMB 6 billion. A second agreement would establish up to 1 GW of solar power capacity in the region, on roughly 2700 hectares of XPCC land, with projected completion by the end of 2015 and costing RMB 10 billion.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

August 8-September 3, 2013 Asia Report: What's Driving, And Hampering, India's Wind Market Momentum

Lead image: Background sun China map, via Shutterstock

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