Solar PV

Tracking Clean Energy Progress

🕐 Last updated Wednesday, 23 May 2018

On track

Solar PV showed record 34% growth in power generation in 2017 and is well on track to meet its SDS target, which requires average annual growth of 17% between 2017 and 2030.

Solar PV power generation

Historical development and targets

	Historical	Forecast	SDS Targets
2000	0.979692		
2001	1.24401		
2002	1.605249		
2003	2.060998		
2004	2.750592		
2005	3.97418		
2006	5.573659		
2007	7.483642		
2008	11.91607		
2009	20.09145		
2010	32.38969		
2011	63.42934		
2012	99.19163		
2013	140.3959		
2014	190.1175		
2015	246.5564		
2016	312.2587391		
2017	416.2587391		
2018		561.6846078	
2019		688.3802642	
2020		821.3339557	
2021		958.7215967	
2022		1098.621794	
2025			1628.620507
2030			2732.27732
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Solar photovoltaic power (PV) led the expansion in renewable power generation in 2017, as deployment boomed in China and prices continued to fall. Since 2010, prices have fallen by 70% for new solar PV large utility-scale systems. Power generation from solar PV is estimated to have grown by over a third in 2017, up to 416TWh, representing almost 2% of total world electricity generation.

Solar PV annual capacity additions

China remains the main driver of solar PV deployment worldwide.

	2015	2016	2017
China	15	34	53
United States	7	15	10.6
India	2	4.3	9.6
Brazil	0	0.1	1
Japan	11	8	7
EU	8	6.4	5.8
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Solar PV’s record growth of 95-98 GW in 2017 was driven by China’s rapid deployment of 53 GW of capacity, supported by economically attractive feed-in tariffs. Last year, China surpassed the 2020 solar PV target outlined in its 13th Five-Year Plan. Since 2012, China’s share of global PV demand has grown from 10% to more than 55%.

Despite the surging annual market, average PV prices are expected to continue to decline in the coming years as competition increases and manufacturing capacity grows in China and South East Asia. Chinese companies now account for more than two-thirds of global PV module manufacturing.

The United States remains the second-largest PV market after China. However, capacity additions declined by almost 30% to 10.6 GW in 2017, after developers rushed to commission projects in 2016 before the anticipated expiration of a federal tax credit causing a lull in the pipeline.

India’s annual PV additions more than doubled, with 9.6 GW coming online. In Japan, solar PV capacity growth slowed by 12% to 7 GW. In the European Union, annual PV additions were stable at just below 6 GW.

As a result of these developments, solar PV investment reached its highest level ever, at over USD 145 billion, even as the costs of new installations declined on average by 13%.

Tracking progress

Solar PV is well on track to meet its SDS target, which requires electricity generation from solar PV to grow from 416 TWh in 2017 to more than 2700 TWh in 2030.

Strong policy support and continuous cost reductions in many countries, as well as unprecedented market dynamics in China, are expected to drive a rapid expansion in solar PV over the next five years.

Recent import tariffs on PV modules may slow down growth in the United States in the next few years, but the long-term outlook remains robust. India is emerging as key world player, thanks to policies aimed at improving the financial health of utilities and facilitating grid integration, which are expected to favour a rapid expansion of PV capacity.


The IEA’s new Innovation Tracking Framework identifies key long-term “technology innovation gaps” across the energy mix that need to be filled in order to meet long-term clean energy transition goals. Each innovation gap highlights where R&D investment and other efforts need improvement.

Explore the technology innovation gaps identified for solar PV below:

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Continued module efficiency improvements needed to reach SDS targets.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Improved cleaning, passivated contacts, interconnection, embedding. New metallization pastes. Overall, a pressing need to identify a path to market to a number of innovation designs at the lab bench.

Key initiatives

  • Relatively well-funded R&D area but gap between this challenge and reaching beyond 24%. While well observed, there is a need to develop commercial designs and products.
  • Longi Solar/CPVT-verified 23% PERC cell and PV Celltech challenge.
  • PERC category in OECD statistics shows highest area of innovation within variable renewables.

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Penetration in SDS imposes pressure on PV industry to develop more sustainable processes. Cadmium, lead and chromium create high levels of toxic waste that needs to be mitigated, monitored, regulated and disposed of.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Process technology scale up needed overall. Increased regulatory pressure, including overall awareness and obligations could lead to innovation in this space.

Key initiatives

  • 45 million in R&D accounted for.
  • Few initiatives and products overall, few countries impose recycling or heavy metal use restrictions.
  • Toshiba, PV Techno Cycle (Japan) programme has a goal of recycling 80% of materials in panels.
  • Few countries impose recycling or heavy metal use restrictions. The European Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) sets up rules and targets for EU member states but requires conversion into national law.

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Often-quoted limits to current generation which would need to be breached to reach SDS penetration.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Improved module optics, improved metallisation, POCL2 high-efficiency emitters, capturing long-wavelength photon energy. Need to develop further accelerators/incubators to facilitate testing and deployment of more exotic technologies in the pipeline if targets are to reach beyond current generation of crystalline PV.

Key initiatives

  • DoE initiatives reaching 40.7% in 2016, ARPA‐E MOSAIC program reaching 44.5% in 2017 from multi-junction gallium-antimonium cell.
  • US National Center for Photovoltaics (NCPV) programmes on Low Cost III-V Solar Cells and Hybrid Tandem solar cells.
  • Longi Solar/CPVT-verified 23% PERC cell.

Why is this RD&D challenge critical?

Emissions required to create a thin-film cell and panel are lower than mono- or polycrystalline panels, and have reduced soft/labour costs, which in deep penetrations of PV in the SDS become a crucial barrier for further deployment. However current efficiencies are relatively too low to incentivise scale-up.

Key RD&D focus areas over the next 5 years

Overall efficiency improvements; low light device performance. Key technical parameters for focused R&D included surface passivation, buffer, and transparent contact layers.

Key initiatives

Solar Frontier, Sharp, SoloPower and First solar are leading manufacturers.

Explore all 100+ innovation gaps across 38 key technologies and sectors here.