Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to India and take part in the International Solar Alliance Summit.
This is an important event because it brings together representatives from nearly all the countries that have deployed solar power plants to discuss ways to advance trade, technology, and collaboration.
As the world’s third-largest economy and one of its fastest-growing markets, India clearly has its eye on the future of solar power and is positioning itself as a global leader in this space.
The summit was quite an insight into India’s growing role in the global solar space, and I wanted to take a closer look at the country’s solar energy market and how it’s changing.
A Changing Landscape
If you’ve been following the solar energy sector, you’ll know that over the past few years, markets have opened up in key developing countries, particularly China and India, as well as a few regions in North America. The prices of solar energy have come down, the technology has improved, and more people are able to afford it.
In the past, only large companies and governments were able to deploy large-scale solar power plants, but that’s changing. More and more households are gaining the ability to generate their own power and are looking to do so in a reliable and green way. That’s paving the way for a more widespread adoption of solar energy across the globe.
Why China And India?
If we look at the next generation of solar power, it’s clearly going to be dominated by China and India. While the former is responsible for the majority of global solar panel production, the latter is the world’s largest consumer of electricity.
According to the International Energy Agency, China will install 400 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity by next year, and India will follow closely behind with a 385-gigawatt target. Both countries are well on their way to powering their societies in a sustainable way and are determined to achieve their targets regardless of the repercussions for the environment.
The Impact Of Technology
It’s worth noting that China’s and India’s aggressive pushes in the renewable energy market aren’t happenstance. It’s all the result of huge technological advances achieved over the past decade.
In 2006, China’s solar energy market was valued at US$2.9 billion, and it grew by 27% and 34% in 2015 and 2016, respectively. The country’s technological advancements, particularly in the area of concentrating solar power, are what’s powering this growth.
India has also seen a rapid increase in installed capacity over the past few years. In 2016, the country’s solar energy market was valued at US$220 million and grew by 31%.
The advancements in technology have improved the quality of life for many in these countries, and people are now realizing the importance of generating their own power and reducing their reliance on the grid.
Even if you take out the environmental factor, renewable energy is still cheaper than traditional forms of power generation. Not only is it more environmentally friendly, but it also allows you to participate in the market price fluctuations, as opposed to being artificially restricted by fiat policies.
The price of solar energy has decreased by 77% over the past five years, and at current rates, it’s becoming a more and more affordable option for households and businesses across the globe. In the U.S., the price of residential solar power has come down by 90% over the past five years and is now comparable to that of traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas.
The Rise Of Export
While China and India are responsible for the majority of the world’s solar power installations, it’s the smaller economies that produce the majority of the panels. Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brazil are among the leading exporters of solar energy equipment, while U.S. companies like Sun Power and Suntech Power have set up distribution networks in emerging markets to ensure their products reach consumers in remote areas with limited energy access. This is important because solar power provides a reliable and sustainable source of electricity that can help these economies to grow.
In the coming years, as solar energy becomes more and more affordable, we’re going to see a major shift in terms of who’s generating our electricity and how we get it. While we need to continue adapting to this new energy reality, we also need to acknowledge and celebrate those who are driving this change.