Chinese solar industry targets booming Middle East market
The GCC countries will increase their installed solar capacity 50-fold between 2015 and 2025.
Chinese solar panel manufacturers are targeting the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia markets, with large-scale investment in renewable energy expected to drive a rapid increase in demand for imported technology.
Local demand has underpinned the rise of China’s solar energy industry, but faced by a slowdown in domestic solar energy projects and reduced subsidies, manufacturers are looking to increase their already large export trade as the key to future growth. Emerging markets offer some of the strongest opportunities, particularly in regions with high levels of solar intensity.
According to Analysis by Frost and Sullivan for the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) and Solar Expo, to be held in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 16-19, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will increase their installed solar capacity 50-fold between 2015 and 2025. Saudi Arabia alone has announced plans for an additional 9.5 GW of renewable energy by 2030. Outside the GCC, India is targeting 175 GW by 2022, including 100 GW of solar.
Planned projects exceed local manufacturing capacity, creating significant scope for partnerships with global suppliers.
“When solar energy was seen as experimental in the region, and oil revenues were high, many decision makers automatically looked for Western partners, particularly from Europe,” said Li Dan, Vice Executive Secretary-General, Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association. “Looking ahead, decisions will be based on purely commercial factors. Chinese companies can provide the quality, the capacity, and the commercial viability to put renewables at the center of the energy mix.”
Industry analysis predicts that installed electricity generation in the GCC will grow at a compound rate of around 3.74 percent per year between 2015 and 2025, with around $85 billion invested in generation, and $31 billion in transmission and distribution. While natural gas will remain the mainstay of generation, liquid-fired generation using oil will be scaled down. Renewable energy, including solar and wind, will both grow significantly.
That opportunity is driving a surge of Chinese interest in the 10th edition of WFES. As the Middle East’s largest exhibition and conference for renewable energy, with a particular focus on the business of renewables, the annual event consistently attracts buyers for renewable energy projects from an area that stretches from Africa, across the Middle East, and into India.
China will have among the strongest international representations at WFES 2017. Exhibiting companies include Trina and JA Solar – the two largest photovoltaic panel manufacturers in the world. They are joined by other major names such as Jinko Solar, which was part of the consortium that set a record-low price in bids for Abu Dhabi’s planned Sweihan solar power plant in September 2016, Suntech Power, and technology giant Huawei. Most Chinese exhibitors specialize in photovoltaic solar energy, particularly solar panels, as well as associated technology such as battery storage.
As falling oil revenues put pressure on budgets, the Chinese suppliers’ established reputation for value, combined with their increasing reputation for quality and innovation, make them highly competitive.
“We have seen very strong growth in the number of Chinese companies coming to WFES, with the number of exhibitors now among the highest for any country, and their strength in the MENA and South Asian markets is growing,” said Naji El Haddad, Group Event Director for Reed Exhibitions, which organises WFES in partnership with Masdar. “China has become a powerful force in the region’s accelerating renewable energy industry, with several Chinese exhibitors at WFES ranked among the 10 largest solar manufacturers in the world.”
First held in 2008, WFES aims to build the business case for renewable energy. Hosted by Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, Masdar, as Part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the 2017 edition will be held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
This report was first published in Saudi Gazette on January 5, 2017