New solar-powered generating capacity is growing at a crackling pace in emerging markets. The growth is fuelled by low-priced equipment and innovative new applications that are expanding energy access for millions, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) finds in a comprehensive new study of clean energy activity in key developing nations.
A total of 34 gigawatts of new solar-power generating capacity came on line in 2016 in 71 emerging market countries studied by BNEF as part of its annual Climatescope survey, which was released at the BNEF Future of Energy Summit in Shanghai. That’s up from 22 gigawatts in 2015 and 3 gigawatts as recently as 2011. Total cumulative solar capacity grew 54 percent year-on-year and has more than tripled in three years. Capacity added in 2016 alone would meet the total annual electricity demands of 45 million homes in India, or of every home in Peru or Nigeria.
China accounted for the vast majority of this with 27 gigawatts added, by far the most of any country. But other nations saw strong growth as well. India added 4.2 gigawatts. Meanwhile, Brazil, Chile, Jordan, Mexico, and Pakistan and nine other nations all saw installed photovoltaic capacity double or more in 2016. Overall, solar accounted for 19 percent of all new generating capacity added in Climatescope countries last year, up from 10.6 percent in 2015 and 2 percent in 2011.
Climatescope is a detailed, country-by-country quantitative assessment of clean energy market conditions and opportunities of nations in South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The 71 countries account for 32.5 percent of global GDP and 72.4 percent of global population, as well as the vast majority of economic activity across all non-OECD nations. Total solar build across all non-OECD countries in 2016 was 34.6 gigawatts.
More than 1.5 million households in Africa now use solar home systems that were bought on a mobile-money enabled financing plan, up from just 600,000 at the end of 2015. In Africa’s solar financing market, this business model is no longer niche and has closed some of the largest deals this year. The combination of solar power, end-customer financing and smart technology is spreading beyond homes into farms and connectivity hubs. For instance, the number of solar irrigation pumps installed in India has reached 128,000 in May, up from just 12,000 in April 2014.
"The massive drop in photovoltaic module prices we’ve seen over the last several years continues to reverberate through developing countries," said Ethan Zindler, Head of Americas for BNEF. "It’s creating opportunities ranging from multi-million dollar projects that serve the grid, to small-scale installations that enable farmers to boost their yields through better irrigation and to connect to the Internet."