The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus said “The only thing that is constant is change.” The world received a lesson as to how true this statement still is with the UK exit from the European Union, dubbed Brexit, and the US election in November 2016. In terms of solar, Brexit will eventually affect how developers in the EU do business in the UK. In the US, a dramatic shift in priorities from RE technologies to fossil fuels and the risk that the Investment Tax Credit could be altered during tax reform, as well as the US withdrawal from the Paris treaty signaled a change that no one envisioned. In 2017, US (and Chinese-owned) monocrystalline manufacturer Suniva declared bankruptcy and filed a new trade petition. The US is now a significant market responsible for 20% of global demand and a significant increase in module prices would at the very least further constrain margins for developers. Returning to Heraclitus, there is another constant in the global PV industry along with change and that is margin constraint from one end of the value chain to another.
The four most significant markets for solar are: China, India, the US and Japan. In 2017 China is expected to install between 34-GWp and 39-GWp, India is expected to install between 6-GWp and 9-GWp, Japan is expected to install between 5-GWp and 7-GWp, and the US is expected to install between 15-GWp and 19-GWp. Concerning China, any significant change whether it is natural disaster, policy change or other event would leave an unfillable hole in the market for PV deployment. As always, the market for solar PV deployment remains highly risky even as it continues to grow, often unprofitably.
It is worth noting that growth of PV deployment has been slowing. PV deployment globally into all applications grew at a compound annual rate of 44% during the 2008 through 2013 time frame and by 38% during the 2009 through 2014 time frame. Global PV deployment grew at a CAGR of 24% for the 2011 through 2016 period. The grid connected applications grew at a compound annual rate of 38% during the 2009 through 2014 time frame and by 24% during the 2011 through 2016 time frame.