Bank Sarasin sees PV consolidation
Switzerland's Bank Sarasin says few PV firms will survive current market shakedown. In the US, First Solar is expected to continue to do well, whereas SolarWorld may be the only German firm to survive.
For years now, Bank Sarasin has been reporting on the solar sector, mainly in German under the leadership of Matthias Fawer (see this Renewables International article). The bank is therefore better known in the German-speaking world, and a number of German firms look to it for expertise. For instance, Freiburg's Solar-Fabrik also mentions the bank's reports in its financial statements.
The German industry will not, however, be happy about the bank's latest findings, which it published last week in English. In a report entitled "Solar industry: Survival of the fittest in a fiercely competitive marketplace," (available under the link above for €120) the bank says that the current consolidation phase on the photovoltaics market could spell doom for a number of firms that have been around for many years but nonetheless failed to become giants. The bank specifically mentions "Germany's Conergy, Q-Cells, Solar-Fabrik and Sunways" as firms that might not be around a few years from now. Only a few years ago, Q-Cells was the largest solar firm in the world.
The bank believes that the global market will stagnate over the next four years with growth rates around a few percentage points. But individual markets will perform differently. Europe is expected to see growth slow down altogether, whereas the Indian PV market could grow annually by 100%. Otherwise, the growth drivers will be China, the US, and Japan.
Unfortunately, the bank reiterates the unfounded claim that grid parity will mean that feed-in tariffs can be done away with: "In the next few years, solar power will achieve price parity with the end-user tariff in more and more regions. As a result, solar energy will no longer be dependent on national subsidy programmes." In fact, a switch to net-metering will merely ensure that homeowners install much smaller arrays so that their solar power production does exceed their power consumption, as many years of practice in the US with net-metering have demonstrated. And for utilities, the retail rate – which the bank calls the "end-user tariff" – is irrelevant anyway; for utilities, the merit-order rate during times of peak solar power production applies.
Finally, the bank finds that concentrated solar power (CSP) faces an unclear future now that photovoltaics has become cheaper. Nonetheless, growth rates could be around 17% annually within the next 10 years. (Craig Morris)