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Inverter shipments fall for the first time since 2011

Worldwide market shipments of solar photovoltaic (PV) inverters declined by 5 per cent year-on-year in the Q2 2013, the first such decrease since Q3 2011.

PV inverter shipments in Q2 2013 amounted to 8.3 GW, down from 8.7 GW during the same period in 2012, says IHS’ new report The World Market for PV Inverters – 2013 Edition.

The main reason for the decrease was the sharp slowdown in the European market. Shipments in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region during the first half of 2013 fell more than 40 per cent compared to the first half of 2012. The EMEA region accounted for only 6 GW worth of shipments in the first half of 2013, down from 10 GW during the same period in 2012.

“The pace of contraction for inverter shipments in critical European countries such as Germany and Italy has been faster than expected, with some of these markets seeing their demand decline by more than 70 per cent this year,” said Cormac Gilligan, senior PV market analyst at IHS. “Some inverter suppliers have been very reliant on these historically large markets. Because of this, inverter suppliers are seeking new markets and have expanded their presence internationally in high-growth countries, including the United States, China, Japan and India.”

Despite the annual decrease, shipments grew on a sequential basis, rising by 24 per cent in Q2 compared to Q1. The large growth in quarter-to-quarter shipments was largely accounted for by China, where inverter shipments increased by 174 per cent in Q2 2013 to reach almost 2 GW. The surge was powered by a rush to complete projects aided by China’s Golden Sun programme.

“Although China’s inverter shipments nearly tripled during Q2 2013, the country’s inverter market is still dominated by domestic suppliers,” Gilligan added. “China remains a challenging market for Western suppliers to penetrate despite its size. Average inverter prices have decreased by 14 percent in Q2 2013 to reach as low as US$0.07 per watt, which means that inverter suppliers really need a local presence in order to have competitive pricing in this market.”

Average global inverter prices continued to decline, dropping by 10 per cent in Q2 2013 compared to the first quarter. This decline was the result of inverter shipments shifting to lower-cost markets in Asia and continued price erosion in mature solar markets. Revenue decreased by 18 per cent year-on-year in Q2 2013 to US$1.6 billion.

In Europe, inverter revenue fell by more than 50 per cent in Q2 2013, with markets such as Germany and Italy suffering revenue declines of more than 60 per cent.

IHS predicts that inverter shipments will increase in the second half of the 2013 to reach more than 34.5 GW for the full year. However, the majority of inverter demand is forecast to come from the Americas and Asia, which will continue to put further pressure on inverter suppliers that do not have a strong presence in these markets. Owing to this market shift, inverter suppliers – particularly Chinese and Japanese firms such as Sungrow, Omron, Tabuchi and TMEIC – are expected to increase their market share substantially in 2013 at the expense of some of the European suppliers.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity