Solar Country Rankings. The top 5 in Past 5 Years, the Next 5 Years

The explosion in solar capacity in the past decade, particularly since 2015, has been out there for all to see. It was just a few years back in 2012 that the world celebrated topping the 100 GW mark in solar. Contrast that with 2021, when the world expects to add 150 GW in just the year itself!

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That massive rate of change has meant an upheaval in country rankings too, as far as solar goes. While comparing top 5 rankings for the full decade would cover almost 10 countries, it is interesting that when we reduce the period to the last 5 years, ie, 2015- 2020, then we see an element of stability too, going by IRENA’s country rankings.

Not only does China continue to enjoy its unrivalled 1st Rank five years later, but it has also increased its solar power capacity by almost 6 times since 2015 to 240 GW in 2020. In 2021, China could be adding as much new capacity as the world did in 2016, ie, 70 GW.  India, which ranked 10th in the list five years ago, sped up to the 5th position in 2020 by increasing its capacity to almost 40 GW. European leaders like the UK, France, Italy have long been eliminated from the top 5 list, replaced by Asian giants like Japan, India.

China secured the first rank in 2020 with a total installed solar capacity of 254,354.800 MW. Five years ago too, it had the highest capacity in the world as 43,548.800 MW of its energy was being produced by solar power. Depending on plans, the country might be looking at between 800GW to 1000 GW of solar by 2030.

The USA ranked second in the 2020 list by producing 75,571.700 MW of solar energy. In 2015, its position was 4th and its capacity stood at 23,442 MW. The US stands out for the impact individual states to have had on solar expansion, with California leading the way till recently.

Japan earned third place in 2020 and enjoys a capacity of 66,999.949 MW. The island country more than doubled its 2015 solar power capacity of 28,615 MW, which, incidentally, was also the third-highest in the world then. Expansion might actually slow down in Japan, thanks to a lack of land as well as an economy where power demand is very stable and likely to remain so with more efficiency.

Germany slid to rank 4 from rank 2 in the last five years due to a lukewarm increase in its capacity- that is, from 39, 224 MW in 2015 to 53,783 MW in 2020. Germany, as one of the oldest and biggest backers of solar, might see a major repowering of its solar facilities, besides new installations in the coming decade, Expect overall capacity to peak out at 100 GW by 2030.

India enhanced its solar power capacity massively from 5,593.484 MW in 2015 to 39, 211.158 MW in 2020, making a five-rank leap from its 10th position five years ago. The country has a target to reach 300 GW or more by 2030.

Italy, like Germany, a strong former solar champion, registered meagre growth (from 18,907.070 MW in 2015 to 21,600.345 MW in 2020) and a rank depreciation from the 5th to 6th place.

Going beyond the top 5, tiny Australia (by population) moved two places up from its 9th rank in 2015 by increasing its solar power capacity by more than three times from 5,946 MW five years earlier to 17,627 MW in 2020.

Vietnam (16,504.490 MW) and the Republic of Korea (14,574,791 MW) bagged the 8th and 9th places respectively in 2020 even though they were absent from the top-ten list five years prior.

Spain secured the last position in 2020 with a total capacity of 14,089.018 MW. Despite two dips in rank, it managed to double its capacity from 7,008.063 MW in 2015 which had earned it 8th place then.

Looking at the next 5 years, it seems safe to say that the top 5 on the board look well placed to continue their reign. While China will probably need just one-two more years of its frenetic additions to cement its position at the top till 2025, the US should also hold on to its position, thanks to the new green deal of the Biden administration. However, if one looks beyond the top 5 club, then get set for a lot of changes, as countries across the world embrace solar in a bigger way. From the Saudis in the middle east, to Australia’s plans to be an energy exporter by exporting solar power generated on the continent, to a resurgence in Spain and in parts of South America, expect the top 10 list in 2025 to feature a whole new set of countries too.

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