SolarPower Europe has forecast an “optimistic outlook” for the global solar sector for the next five years.

The trade group has published its latest Global Market Outlook and says that following a milestone year for solar power in 2018, emerging markets are starting to take advantage of falling technology costs in the sector and helping to secure continued growth.

“2018 was a unique year for the entire global solar industry, as we exceeded the magic installation mark of 100 GW per year for the first time, which led the solar power sector to grow to over 500 GW or 0.5 TW,” said Christian Westermeier, President of SolarPower Europe. “Last year, we again saw strong cost improvements with solar becoming the lowest-cost power generation source in more and more regions.

“At the same time, new applications have quickly progressed, such as floating solar, while corporate renewable Power Purchase Agreements have reached a double-digit GW-level, and a market for merchant solar has emerged in several countries.”

Globally, 102.4 GW of solar power capacity was deployed in 2018, a four per cent rise on the 98.5 per cent installed in 2017. The growth seen in 2018 was checked by a considerable contraction in China and other leading markets, SolarPower Europe said.

In 2018, 11 countries installed more than 1 GW of solar; that’s two more compared to the nine GW-scale solar markets in 2017. SolarPower Europe’s Medium Scenario estimates that the number will significantly increase to 16 countries in 2019.

Europe as a whole added 11.3 GW in 2018, a 21 per cent increase over the 9.3 GW installed the year before mainly because of the EU’s binding national 2020 targets. In 2019, SolarPower Europe’s Medium Scenario sees demand surge by over 80 per cent to 20.4 GW, and an 18 per cent growth to 24.1 GW in 2020, which would be a new installation record, surpassing the 22.5 GW Europe added in 2011.

Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe commented: “Global solar demand continued to grow last year, as new emerging markets have embraced solar’s attractive business case. This market diversification means interest in solar is rising at a rapid pace.”

Hemetsberger added: “In Europe, we have entered a new era of solar growth and with the recently concluded Clean Energy Package, we have a new framework for solar that will see our technology thrive even more in the coming years. We now look to EU member states to put ambitious solar targets in place and ensure robust implementation guidelines in their 2030 National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs).”

On a global level, in its Medium Scenario, SolarPower Europe anticipates that around 128 GW of new PV capacity will be installed in 2019, which would translate into a 25 per cent market growth.

SolarPower Europe’s 5-year Global Market Outlook suggests that at the present rate of growth global solar power generation capacities will increase by nearly 800 GW by 2023, reaching a total of 1.3 TW in 2023.