Analysts warn of an oversupply in the solar industry putting downward pressure on prices, particularly on solar modules. But this may benefit low-cost, low-end markets like India and Latin America.
Another analyst has warned of a glut in the solar industry, particularly solar modules. IHS Technology's Senior Research Director Ash Sharma and Senior Manager Edurne Zoco, made the announcement earlier this week that they expect solar installations in China to fall by 80% during the third quarter. The analysts explained that China had already installed nearly 13GW of the 20GW targeted annually. With the Chinese government expected to keep the installations up to the targeted limit, IHS sees a glut during Q3 along with price adjustments followed by a slight recovery during Q4. IHS said that it is the break from tradition in China--in capping the installations--that will drive a global slowdown in installations in the second half of the year and trigger a sharp adjustment in pricing. Offered prices for modules are already significantly lower than in the first quarter, as suppliers seek to shift volume ahead of the slump in demand in China. China had earlier announced plans to more than triple its solar power capacity by 2020, reaching 143GW in a bid to reduce its carbon emissions. Its 13th Five Year Plan called for installing 15GW to 20GW of solar power annually over 5 years. A planned cut in feed-in tariff on June 30, 2016, drove companies to rush their installations for this year. To make matters worse, IHS notes an expansion in capacity that has been ongoing for sometime. Earlier--on March 21, 2016--Credit Suisse also predicted the oversupply saying that solar manufacturers "face an exacerbated oversupplied environment in 2016." Their analysts highlighted that the industry was planning to add about 10GW cell capacity to an already oversupplied market, while they estimated demand to be growing at only about 6.1GW or an 11.7% annually. (Click here for the Credit Suisse report.) IHS said that the oversupply continues outside China; while installation demand is exceptionally strong in the United States, the inventory levels remain high due to the vast quantities of Chinese modules shipped at the end of 2015 and even earlier. IHS also provided additional pricing predictions: Prices for Chinese tier-1 modules shipped to China will range from $0.44/W to $0.46/W (excluding VAT) in the second half of 2016. Prices as low as $0.43/W for multi-crystalline modules were quoted at the recent SNEC PV Power Expo show in Shanghai. The research firm said that at this price, PV modules suppliers will sell at a net loss in China with gross margins of module suppliers dropping from about 20% in the first half of 2016 to low-to-mid single digits in the second half of this year. IHS expects a shakeout and consolidation in the industry for suppliers that are unable to operate over the next two to three quarters at such limited margins. However, low-cost low-end markets have been growing in India and Latin America, which are consuming larger volumes at lower prices clearing up some inventory. For India, the current oversupply ties in nicely, although temporarily, with its plans to grow its solar power capacity by 20x by 2022 reaching 100GW of installations.