Japan eyes solar summit; EPA off to court

The week in clean energy saw Japan reel in China as the world’s largest solar market, India expand wind and solar targets, and the US Supreme Court agree to hear EPA challenges.

Could Japan replace China as the world’s largest solar market in 2014? Reports last week indicated that the world’s most populous country may not meet its targeted solar capacity addition of 14GW, giving Japan a chance to jump to the top spot.

“There isn’t enough time to achieve the target,” Li Junfeng, director general of the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, said in an interview with Bloomberg News in Beijing. New capacity added during the year could fall below 10GW he said. The nation added 3.8GW of new grid-connected solar capacity until end September, according to the National Energy Administration.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance continues to forecast 13-14GW of new build in 2014, according to research published last week. The November 2014 PV Shipment Index indicates that China’s PV demand is rebounding in H2 2014, and it may still manage to build nearly 10GW in the last quarter of the year.

Meanwhile, there were rumblings in China’s solar manufacturing industry too. The largest panel maker – Yingli Green Energy – cut its shipment forecast for 2014 by about 10%. The company expects to ship 3.30-3.35GW this year compared to forecasts of 3.6-3.8GW in August and as much as 4.2GW previously. After focusing on boosting market share, the company said it is now seeking a balance between shipment volume and profits.

The strategy will enable Trina Solar to leapfrog over Yingli and become the world’s largest panel maker this year with about 3.6GW in shipments.

Another significant headline from China came from its central bank. The world’s biggest carbon emitter will encourage its banks and companies to participate in “green finance and green industries,” deputy governor Pan Gongsheng said in a statement posted on the website of the People’s Bank of China. It will also curb the flow of capital to high-polluting industries.

(China’s two main plans to curb emissions – the National Climate Change Action Plan and the National Energy Development Plan – are examined closely in the note: How will China achieve its climate commitments? The plans chart a path for achieving a set of interim objectives by 2020.)

China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, also plans to start a nationwide carbon market in the next two years following a pledge to cap emissions by 2030. Opening in 2016, the market would have matured by 2020, said Su Wei, an official at the climate change department under the National Development and Reform Commission. Seven test regions in China traded a combined 13.75Mt (million metric tons) of carbon dioxide as of October, with a total value of CNY 500m ($US81m).

Neighbouring India was on a target expansion spree last week, pitching for 100GW of solar installations by 2020, and expanding the annual wind power addition to 8GW – a feat that would require increasing its pace of renewable energy expansion seven times from an average of 3GW per year. Bloomberg New Energy Finance wrote about why this goal will remain challenging in its note: 100GW solar by 2022: India’s target or mere aspiration?

The other main news was from the US, where the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the Obama administration went too far with the new power-plant pollution caps which the government estimates will cost almost $10bn per year. The justices said they will hear industry and state contentions that the Environmental Protection Agency did not adequately consider those costs when it limited mercury and other hazardous pollutants. The affected companies include American Electric Power, Duke Energy and Southern Company.

The EPA meanwhile published a proposal for tightening of nationwide ozone levels to 65-70 parts per billion from the current 75 parts per billion for an eight-hour period. That change could prevent almost 1m asthma attacks and an equivalent number of missed school days, the agency estimated.  Compliance will come at a high cost for the nation’s power plants, chemical manufacturers and refineries.

To make sense of the climate plans of nations – which are converging in Lima for the next round of global climate talks – Bloomberg New Energy Finance has published a White Paper: Guide to the UN climate talks: COP20 and beyond which is available for free download.

Graph of the week: More than $14bn of sovereign and supranational green bonds issued this year so far, already surpassing 2013's $7.7bn

Originally published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Reproduced with permission.