The TrickyScribe: Of the 45 critical energy technologies and sectors assessed in a tracking report by International Energy Agency (IEA), only seven are on track. The situation is grim! With a 31% hike in generated power last year, solar was again one of the handful technologies that kept pace with long-term climate goals, according to the IEA.
Meanwhile, the race is on to process applications for central payments across the world’s biggest solar market, China, particularly as qualifying projects must reportedly be grid-connected. Final electricity price will be a major competitive factor considered by the Beijing authorities.
Electric vehicles remained on track as global sales hit nearly two million in another record-breaking year; energy storage joined the energy transition front runners as new installations doubled, led by China, Korea, Germany and the US. In what they describe as their latest Tracking Clean Energy Progress report, the IEA examined 45 key technologies that are instrumental in keeping global warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius; providing universal energy access; and sustainably reducing air pollution.
The findings are indeed discouraging as they show only seven technologies and sectors are reciprocating with the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario. Agreed by 193 countries back in 2015, the scenario aims at least 300 GW of new renewable energy capacity per year until 2030 to keep the Paris goals within reach.
Capacity additions were flat in 2018. Solar power generation increased 31% and represented the largest absolute generation growth of all renewable technologies. With central subsidies cut back in China under Beijing’s 5/31 policy announcement – prompting an 18% fall in new PV capacity; the Trump administration’s Section 201 tariffs taking a bite out of the U.S. market; and India affected by delayed and cancelled tenders, the solar market experienced a slowdown last year.
With last year’s increase of 97 GW, solar’s share of global electricity generation exceeded 2% for the first time. PV remains the fourth-largest renewable electricity technology in terms of generation, after hydropower, onshore wind and bioenergy.
Global EV uptake after another record year for sales – 1.98 million vehicles – raised the total stock to 5.12 million. Sales increased 68% in 2018, more than twice the average year-on-year growth required to meet the Sustainable Development Scenario by 2030, the IEA said. In that scenario, 15% of the global car fleet is electric by 2030, an ambition that requires annual average growth of 30% from 2018 to 2030.
Ambitious policy announcements have played a crucial role in stimulating EV uptake in the past two or three years, however, the penetration of EVs is still limited to less than 1% of the global car fleet. China accounted for more than a half of total sales in 2018 – with just over a million EVs, followed by Europe (385,000) and the United States (361,000). The three regions made up over 90% of EV sales last year.
Energy storage is now also on track to meet energy transition targets as annual deployment nearly doubled from 2017, to reach more than 8 GWh, as per the report. Behind-the-meter storage expansion was particularly strong at almost three times the level seen in 2017, and matched grid scale storage investments for the second year running. The technology mix remained largely unchanged, with lithium-ion batteries accounting for nearly 85% of all new capacity.
The leading storage market is Korea that accounts for more than a third of the global capacity installed in 2018, on the back of favorable policy measures. China emerged as the second biggest market, with nearly 500 MW of new battery storage installed and 1 GW in development, followed by the United States and Germany. New markets in Southeast Asia and South Africa also entered the stage, thanks to supportive mechanisms introduced by governments and utilities.
Recent trends are in tandem with the deployment growth needed to reach the Sustainable Development Scenario level of 200 GW by 2030. The IEA, however, underlined installations will need to continue multiplying at the strong 2018 rate for ten years to hit their goal.
China’s National Energy Administration to allocate $435 mn for solar subsidies
China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) yesterday confirmed RMB3 billion ($435 million) will be allocated for public solar subsidies this year. The NEA is believed to have confirmed the details it published in a consultation document about subsidized PV project policy on April 11 would be adopted as official policy.
The draft document, which emerged during prolonged talks between the central authorities and solar industry stakeholders in Beijing, stated RMB750 million of the RMB3 billion would be allocated for rooftop projects, amounting to 3.5 GW of new capacity. The subsidies will be allocated by the NEA after applicants register details with the provincial authorities, with Reuters reporting all applications must be received by July 1.
The NEA confirmed on its website yesterday that in allocating subsidies it will “regard the on-grid electricity price as an important competitive condition giving priority to the construction of projects with low subsidy intensity and [a] strong declining slope”. Consideration will also be given to the condition of the local power networks to accommodate new solar projects and the local investment environment, added the NEA.
The timing of the process may also cast doubt on China’s ability to add 40 GW of new capacity this year. Roth Capital Partners suggested in April that such a landmark could only be reached if the NEA were able to allocate and publish the details of subsidy grants by the end of next month. With applicants reportedly given until July 1 to apply, that deadline appears impossible to be met.