China to sail beyond 100GW of PV in 2020: Yingli Solar CEO

China will easily exceed its 100GW solar target for 2020, with Beijing likely to update and expand the target in its upcoming 13th five-year strategic plan for the country, covering the 2016-2020 period, says Yingli Solar’s chief executive.

China’s next five-year plan will likely put a finer point on targets for small-scale distributed PV as well as a planned solar build-out in the country’s energy-starved and impoverished western regions, predicts Liansheng Miao, Yingli’s chairman and chief executive.

“We believe the government will announce some new potential demand” beyond the 100GW target, Miao said in a conference call Wednesday, using chief financial officer Yiyu Wang as a translator.

In 2013 China’s solar market exploded, growing fourfold to become the world’s largest.

In 2014 the country installed a record 10.6GW of PV capacity, although that fell short of the 14GW target Beijing had set. The shortfall was largely the result of challenges within the distributed-generation PV sector.

China ended 2014 with more than 28GW of PV capacity in place – meaning that about 14.4GW of annual additions would be required over the next five years to reach 100GW by the end of the decade.

Beijing recently lifted its formal 2015 solar target to 17.8GW, up from the 15GW goal it had previously set.

Miao believes Beijing would like to see near-limitless growth in the distributed PV sector.

New targets will likely allow distributed PV installations to mushroom “without the restriction of a 100GW ceiling – in fact, this could be treated as the bottom”, Miao says.

The Chinese government will also look to PV to help solve urgent air-pollution concerns facing Beijing, Tianjin, and the surrounding Hebei province, Miao says. Those measures will create “extra demand for solar and other renewable solutions to replace the current [coal-fired] plants”.

Miao also believes the Chinese government will encourage solar installations in western regions, like Xinjiang province, that will go beyond the 100GW target.

Steady and growing demand for solar energy in China over the next half-decade will put a strong wind at the back of China’s PV manufacturing giants.

To capture a larger slice of China’s solar market, many of the country’s largest module manufacturers – including Jinko, Trina, Yingli, and Canadian Solar – are pushing downstream into project development and EPC work.

Although not particularly an early-mover into the downstream market, Yingli has embraced the sector with gusto, saying it will reduce its exposure to the notoriously brutal global module market in future by using more of its own modules for in-house projects.

Unlike many of its peers, Yingli has not yet returned to profitability, hampered by a large debt pile and falling revenues.

Yingli – the world’s largest module supplier until 2014, when it was overtaken by Trina – hopes growing sales in China and its push downstream will help it reverse its fortunes in 2015.