2020, another historic year for the Spanish PV sector

2020, otro año histórico para el sector fotovoltaico español

PV continued its position of global leadership in 2020, both among renewables and non-renewables, according to the Annual Report that UNEF, the Spanish PV Industry Association publishes every year and which offers an insight into the sector situation. 2020 was also an historic year for the PV sector in Spain.

Subtitled ‘Solar power, opportunity for sustainability’, this year’s edition highlights that in 2020, PV maintained its position of leadership in installed generation technologies at global level with new additional capacity of 139 GW. This figure represents an increase of 21% compared to 2019, overtaking the 100 GW for the fourth year running and achieving a cumulative 760 GW.

PV at global level

These figures are supported by growth on every continent. The big market leader, China, broke a negative 2-year trend of deceleration, adding 48.2 GW (up 60% on 2019, when 30.1 GW was recorded). Behind China was the US that doubled its 2019 contribution with a record increase in new capacity of 19.2 GW.

In total, renewables, even under the exceptional conditions of COVID-19, set a record installed capacity of 261 GW, (48% more than the 176 GW of 2019) and 82% of the entire new installed capacity globally (an increase of 10% compared to the 72% achieved in 2019).

Growth in the European Union

In the EU, PV consolidated the growth it has been experiencing in recent years with the introduction of 18.2 GW, 11% more compared to the 16.7 GW in 2019. As a result, 2020 was ranked as the second-best year in history, surpassed only by 2011.

The main driver of this growth was Germany, which installed 4.8 GW, recovering the position it has held most of the time in the past 20 years (only six times has it failed to be the leading EU market, replaced once by Italy, twice by Spain and three times by the UK).

Forecasts for 2021 position the annual installed capacity at 22.4 GW, overtaking the previous year for the EU and the 2011 record year (21.3 GW). The new capacity for 2022 is expected to reach 27.4 GW.

The case of Spain

In Spain, although for reasons other than those in 2019, 2020 was also an historic year for the PV sector. For ground-mounted plants, the installed capacity reached 2.8 GWp, less than in 2019 but with the milestone that these figures were achieved with no type of public subsidy or regulatory framework. In self-consumption, the output increased by 596 MWh, 30% up on the previous year, demonstrating the resilience of this sector to COVID-19.

In terms of installed annual capacity, this is the second-best year in Spain’s history, again demonstrating that this a new business sector is ready to produce big capacity figures, such as those required to meet the NECP objectives.  For 2021, expectations are of continuity, with an extensive portfolio of projects in the pipeline for ground-mounted plants.

Self-consumption is also expected to have a positive evolution, even exceeding the 600 MW of new capacity of last year. The subsidy programmes announced by the Government as part of the national recovery plan represent an important stimulus for this form of generation. However, without quick and flexible implementation, they could represent a paralysation of industrial self-consumption in recent years.

Economic contribution

The sector has demonstrated its resilience and has behaved in a counter-cyclical way with a growth in its total economic footprint of 7% compared to 2019, despite COVID-19 and the recession. As regards the sector’s contribution to the economy, according to UNEF estimates, the direct contribution of PV to Spanish GDP was €3.717bn in 2020, 0.29%, continuing the upwards trend seen last year. The total economic footprint of the sector, estimated as the aggregation of direct, indirect and induced GDP generation, both inside and outside the domestic economy, reached €10.688bn in 2020.

From the point of view of employment, the total footprint in Spain amounted to 58,892 national workers linked to the PV sector in 2020, of which 17,568 were direct, 22,800 indirect and 18,523 induced.

PV is moreover a net exporter. The 2020 figures are higher than those of 2019, achieving €2.565bn, proving its competitiveness at international level.

‘Made in Spain’ technology

The domestic PV industrial sector forms part of this intensive economic activity. A fact little known by the general public is that solar is a ‘Made in Spain’ technology, as up to 65% of the equipment can be manufactured in Spain. There are Spanish companies among the ten largest manufacturers of inverters and solar trackers at global level. The third biggest EPC contractor is also Spanish. All the assemblies are manufactured in Spain and part of the production is exported. In addition, several module manufacturing initiatives could be consolidated in the coming years.

With this data on the table, we are convinced that the PV sector is going to bring economic growth and job creation to the country, at the same time as helping increase its biodiversity and the fight against the climate emergency”, explains Rafael Benjumea, Chair of UNEF.