A new report from the European Commission found that the continent remained the largest photovoltaic user throughout the world in 2011. In all, the continent, led by nations including Germany, Spain and Italy, consisted of 70 percent of all photovoltaics installed throughout the world. However, the report “PV Status Report 2012” by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission found that other markets were growing quickly, including in the U.S., which saw year over year renewable investment growth of over 40 percent.
However, “With a cumulative installed capacity of over 51 gigawatts, the European Union is leading in PV installations with more than 70 percent of the total worldwide 70 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic electricity generation capacity at the end of 2011,” the report said.
In 2011 photovoltaics were the majority of new electric capacity installed in Europe as well. “46.1 gigawatts of new power capacity was connected in the E.U. last year and 7.8 GW were decommissioned, resulting in 38.3 GW of new net capacity,” the report found. “Photovoltaic electricity generation capacity accounted for 21.5 gigawatts, or 56 percent of the new net capacity.” Solar was followed by wind, which accounted for 9.4 gigawatts or 25 precent of all new electric generation in the E.U. So, overall renewable energy accounted for well more than 75 percent of new electric installed in Europe last year.
The report found that among other things, the world’s leading solar country, Germany, continued to grow on a year over year basis. In 2011 it installed 7.5 gigawatts of PV as compared to 7.4 gigawatts in 2010. The growth was because of its Renewable Energy Sources Act. The law created a guaranteed feed-in tariff for 20 years which included an annual decrease. This year the tariffs, which are designed to account to for drops in solar prices are below 13 percent and 21 percent of what they were in the first half of this year and were reduced up to 13 percent more than was expected when the law was put in place.
Italy and Spain were the second and third largest in terms of installed solar respectively. Italy connected 9.1 gigawatts of solar in 2011, although it installed 5.9 gigawatts in 2011—roughly 3.2 were installed in 2010 but connected in 2011, to meet incentive deadlines. Spain had 4.2 gigawatts of solar in 2011, according to the report. But most of it was installed in 2008.
Looking at the industry in a broader perspective, the report found that across the world investments in solar and renewable energy continued to grow. The report found they grew to a new record of U.S. $263 billion, with solar increasing by 44 percent to $128 billion. While Europe was still the leading region in terms of renewable energy investments the growth in investments was faster in the Asia/Oceania region, but with a growth of over 40 percent., the U.S. took the top rank with $48 billion.
The report concluded that going forward the world market for solar and renewables is becoming more balanced. If trends continue, Europe’s share of the international renewable energy markets will decrease further.