Although end-market demand in 2012 did not achieve the levels many had hoped for, it still set a new record in terms of annual installed capacity. These demand levels led to another significant milestone, namely contributing significantly to reaching a 100 GW cumulative installation level for PV systems.
Demand levels in 2012 were also high enough to continue the recent trend that has seen cumulative demand doubling every two years. It took more than 30 years for global cumulative demand to reach 2 GW but only four to surpass 4 GW in 2004. Since then, the industry has seen cumulative demand doubling every two years up to and including last year. Annual growth rates have been declining, however, and the next doubling of cumulative demand is anticipated to take slightly longer at three (rather than two) years, under current policy and installed pricing conditions.
This trend has been driven first by attractive policy mechanisms designed to drive downstream demand and, more recently, by rapid price declines throughout the upstream PV value-chain. Given the lower installed PV system pricing, policies have also been adjusted downwards, thereby slowing the pace of growth. However, given the maturity of the industry and the potential for continuing cost reductions, the PV industry is still poised for strong long-term growth and will increasingly be seen as a major source of power generation in the years to come.
Also, given the volatile nature of the PV industry, it is worth mentioning that under upside scenario forecasts, the market could maintain this growth pattern, doubling once again in both 2014 and in 2016, and exceeding 450 GW of cumulative installed capacity by 2017.
Figure 1: Cumulative Global PV Demand 2004-2017
Source: Adapted from NPD Solarbuzz Marketbuzz