China's Uncertain Solar Future
At this year’s World Cup in Brazil, one of the biggest players off the field is Yingli Green Energy, the Chinese solar company looking to make a grand entrance onto the world stage. The company made a splash at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa by helping implement the “Football for Hope, Energy for Hope” program in the region, leaving a lasting impression several years after the Cup is over.
Looking just at Yingli, it would seem that Chinese solar is riding high. A part does not stand in for the whole, though, as the future solar in China is looking more uncertain by the day. Reports both positive and negative have been released in the past few days making it difficult to gauge where the industry will head next.
Looking back to the start of 2014, the outlook for solar in China was cautiously optimistic. Deutsche Bank had carefully managed hopes for Yingli as it entered into a joint venture with Datong Coal Mine Group. Yingli hoped to exceed a production of 12GW in 2014 and Deutsche Bank believed it could.
There were fears, however, that the Chinese government would place a 4GW cap on utility-scale solar installations. Deutsche dismissed this and reaffirmed that the Chinese government was committed to solar energy and hoped to reach a production goal of 35GW for 2015.
A draft proposal for the 4GW cap circulated, casting doubt on how high the actual demand for solar would be in 2014. In an analysis from Credit Suisse, the companies that would be most negatively affected by the cap would be Yingli, Trina Solar, and Jinko Solar.
The decreased demand for solar energy in China became a reality with the first quarter report out this year. Despite having a strong demand of 6GW in Q4 of 2013, Q1 of 2014 saw demand fall to only 1GW.
Deutsche Bank met with Chinese solar firms and attempted to refocus the annual goals, saying that 2GW was a more realistic target for distributed solar installations as opposed to the ambitious 8GW. In total, China hopes to have 14GW of new installations this year, with 8GW coming from distributed installations and 6GW coming from utilities. In the middle of May, solar stocks in China were down across the board.
Flash forward to this week. Solar stocks are down once again with reports that China is thinking of cutting its 2014 energy targets because of issues with credit availability. According to the Global New Energy Development Report 2014, though, China has surpassed Germany as the world’s largest solar PV market. It was also projected that solar panel production in China is expected to double by 2017.
So, what’s happening with China’s solar market? It’s a bit difficult to say.
Forbes Magazine said that China’s 2014 installation target “seems ambitious,” noting that the 8GW target in the distributed generation segment could prove problematic since that portion of the market is still a bit underdeveloped. Forbes hopes that China’s incentive driven market will keep production high and give the market a reason to keep growing. With the potential cuts, though, it remains to be seen if plans to hit target goals and beyond will come to fruition.
Chinese solar companies are also looking to break into foreign markets as well, much like Yingli has done with its involvement in the World Cup. Today, Chinese solar giant Solargiga announced its signing of an agreement to install 200MW of solar power capacity in Ghana. A scandal last year involving a number of solar companies from different countries, including China, dumping materials in the Indian market lead to scrutiny of the companies and a potential future of higher duties on foreign panels. This could make international business for Chinese solar companies a bit more difficult.
Despite the uncertainty, there are those still optimistic about China’s solar future. Many have cited China’s heavy reliance on coal and its war on pollution’s opposing forces as a driving factor for increased emphasis on renewable sources of energy such as solar. Others believe China will come close to its target goals in the solar sector for this year.
Despite these uncertainties, China’s solar energy future is definitely something to watch through the end of this year and beyond.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.