In 2011, PV demand within the four major countries that make up the Asia-Pacific region (Australia, China, India, and Japan) varied widely, with different installed system costs, distinctive customer segment preferences, and different total end-market sizes. When aggregated however, these markets accounted for over 5 GW of module demand – approximately one-fifth of global 2011 market demand – making PV demand in the APAC region high priority to any global module supplier.
And the majority of module manufacturers that serviced that demand during the year were, unsurprisingly, Asian manufacturers. In fact, of the Top 10 module suppliers into this region only one, First Solar, was not based in Japan or China. Even extending into the Top 20 suppliers, only two manufacturers were 'Western' manufacturers, First Solar and SunPower, and even these companies have significant manufacturing capacity in Southeast Asia (in Malaysia and the Philippines respectively).
As the figure shows, Suntech ranked as the largest supplier into the region during 2011, closely followed by Yingli. Japanese firms - Sharp Solar, Panasonic (formerly Sanyo) and Kyocera Solar - primarily served the domestic Japanese market, enabling them to round out the Top 5 in terms of MW market share.
Source: Adapted from Asia Pacific Major PV Markets Quarterly Report, Q3 2012.
In all, the Top 10 suppliers accounted for almost 50 per cent of this market. Beyond the top-10, the list quickly tapers off as the next 10 companies (by MW module shipments) made up slightly less than 20 per cent of the regional market. While the fact that Asian manufacturers dominated the APAC major countries may not come as a surprise, it is interesting to note that strong presence in just one of the major countries typically translates to a high ranking in terms of regional market share.
This trend is likely to continue through 2012 and beyond, especially as relatively insular markets such as Japan and China continue to grow. Indeed, any decline in access to non-Asian markets, either to the US or Europe as a result of import/tariff duties, may result in more aggressive sales and marketing strategies within APAC to place available modules.
If this scenario played out – and growth in APAC regions continues to outpace US and EU-based PV demand – then European or US-based module suppliers looking to export to APAC could in fact end up being disadvantaged more by domestic protectionism than they are today as a result of the low-ASP PV environment.