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The Return of the Badly Rhyming 12 Days of Solar Christmas

As the global PV industry struggles out of consistent quarterly losses in 2012 through initially mixed results in 2013 and with some companies returning to positive gross margins and a few returning to positive operating margins it is time to celebrate getting out of another year alive. The return to breakeven was aided by low costs for polysilicon as well as low costs for consumables and more rapid learning resulting in lower manufacturing costs – a trifecta of good news for manufacturers. Caveats to the industry’s apparent recovery include the unsustainable low prices for polysilicon and wafers as well as the continued losses for some cell manufacturers in spite of lower raw material costs. Figure 1 offers PV industry metrics for 2013 moving into 2014.

Figure 1: PV Industry Metrics, Inventory, Capacity, Production, Shipments, Installations, Defective Modules, 2013 into 2014

As a reward for reading through the return of the twelve badly rhyming days of Christmas an outlook for 2014 is provided after day twelve:

On the first day of Solar Christmas my industry gave to me: multi-gigawatts of profitable PV

On the second day of Solar Christmas my industry gave to me: an early extension of the US 30% ITC

On the third day of Solar Christmas my industry gave to me: flat prices for modules in 2014 (so that we can continue recovering)

On the fourth day of Solar Christmas my industry gave to me: no more consolidating

On the fifth day of Solar Christmas my industry gave to me: a mature lease model with a standardized escalation fee

On the sixth day of Solar Christmas my industry gave to me: a return to successful vibrant solar startup activity

On the seventh day of Solar Christmas my industry gave to me: an end of subsidies for conventional energy

On the eighth day of Solar Christmas my industry gave to me: industry-wide sharing of knowledge though not protected IP

On the ninth day of Solar Christmas my industry gave to me: a fair-priced O&M strategy

On the tenth day of Solar Christmas my industry gave to me: more community /group buy solar – as long as it is DG

On the eleventh day of Solar Christmas my industry gave to me: stronger rules for fracking as well as lower prices for residential buyers of NG energy – but frankly less NG and more PV

On the twelfth day of Solar Christmas my industry gave to me: a stronger commitment to ameliorating the ongoing ravages of climate change by all governments and all people by committing now to installing more renewables so that an increasing portion of energy is served by renewable energy

Un-holiday like though it may be, the ravages of climate change will disproportionately affect the poor even though everyone is part of the problem. Time to make a real commitment to working to solve this global crisis and move rapidly and without delay to the energy technologies of the future (or today) – not conventional energy (or, as some refer to natural gas, unconventional energy) – but to a renewable technology fueled worldwide economy. 

Figure 2 presents PV industry growth from 1997 through 2013 with a three scenario estimate for 2014.  Shipments for 2013 are estimated to be 33.4-GWp, with the accelerated scenario of 46.9-GWp considered the highly likely estimate for 2014.  The accelerated scenario is considered highly likely for 2014 because of ramped up activity in the US in advance of the potential decrease of the 30% ITC, increasing demand in Latin America and the increasing likelihood of deployment, increased activity in some African countries (which may or may not come to fruition), but primarily continued high levels of activity in China and Japan.

Figure 2: PV Industry Growth 1997-2013 and Estimate for 2014

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