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TrendForce Anticipates Declines in PV Prices to End in Q2 as Demands in China Return

9 April 2015 Energy Angus Kao

A recent study by the International Energy Agency states that the Asia-Pacific region ranks in first place in the amount of PV system installed for two years in a row. EnergyTrend, a division of TrendForce, projects that the total amount of PV installed worldwide in 2015 will reach 51.4GW in its newest PV Gold Report. The same report also predicts Asia-Pacific will continue to be ahead of other regions in the amount of PV installed in 2015, accounting for 60% and above globally. China in particular will represent 35% of world’s PV market with its estimated installed capacity at 17.8GW. In sum, demands in China exert a lot of influence on the price movements in the PV industry. 

EnergyTrend’s analyst Angus Kao said that in the second quarter, demands in China’s PV market have stabilized and there are signs that indicate the general decline in prices will end. Furthermore, the amount of orders for the downstream sector has picked up since the start of April, and the noticeable increases in orders also signal a stronger drive for downstream companies to stock up. There is a visible rise in the demand for high-efficiency products, now representing approximately 50% or more of the total PV market demand. Moreover, multi-Si cells with 17.8% efficiency have become the mainstream in the second quarter. 

EnergyTrend’s research indicates the prices of polysilicon are unlikely to rise in the second quarter, and demands will determine whether the prices will stabilize or keep falling. This is because polysilicon manufacturers in the upstream sector have overcome their respective production bottleneck and will be expanding their capacities, thus making the feedstock plentiful.  

With polysilicon abundant, demands for wafers of high quality from the downstream sector in the second quarter are stronger than the first. The prices for wafers will be determined by whether the prices for polysilicon will continue to fall. Spot prices for polysilicon and wafer in March have dropped to levels not seen since Europe implemented tariffs on PV imports in 2011 and the US taking similar measures in 2012. Wafer manufactures thus hope prices will stabilize as demands pick up. Presently, the declines in multi-Si wafers are starting to ease. 

Cell manufacturers in the second quarter are still watching the market, so they are unwilling to slash their prices. The recent spot market for PV cells will therefore show some narrow price fluctuations. With feed-in tariff programs around the world becoming more well-defined, the uncertainties that companies in the downstream sector face have been significantly reduced. This will also create observable demands for PV cells as well as boosting the capacity utilization rates for all parts of the supply chain. The PV cell prices may stop falling at the same time of returning demands, but chances of prices going up will depend on the rate of demand and the situation with getting rid of excess capacity. 

As for PV module prices, they vary according to manufacturers. Prices are relatively stable for manufacturers that have downstream businesses operations (i.e. running PV systems) because they have reliable distribution channels. Those companies that only make and sell PV modules will have to compete for projects in a market that has an abundant supply. They will face the downward pressure on module prices. 

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