Solar capacity to see dramatic growth across Asia

  • Tokyo, Japan

  • 6 September 2022

Solar power is expected to experience exponential growth across five of Asia’s biggest economies, positioning the region to become a global hub of solar power.

This is according to electricity think tank Ember, who analysed existing national power sector development plans across China, Japan, Indonesia, India and The Philippines.

The analysis finds that solar capacity will grow significantly across the region, with an average of 22% growth each year across the five economies, with the fastest growth rates expected in Indonesia and the Philippines.

China currently has a goal to install a total of 1,200 GW of wind and solar by 2030.

While it does not have an isolated goal for its future solar capacity additions, solar power has accounted for a 50% share of capacity additions on average between 2012 and 2021.

Based on this decadal trend, and its current capacity additions, Ember’s Muyi Yang, Asia senior electricity policy analyst, said:

China could reach a total capacity of at least 600GW of solar by 2030. We believe this to be a cautious estimate, as some analysts estimate that China could reach its 1200 GW wind and solar goals as soon as 2026.

Dr Muyi Yang Asia senior electricity policy analyst

Indonesia plans to add 4.68 GW of solar capacity by 2030. Currently, Indonesia’s share of solar electricity generation is less than 0.2% and is the lowest rate of any country in the G20.

If implemented to its target, this would mean that Indonesia would have built 25 times more capacity than the current level (180 MW).

Isabella Suarez, Southeast Asian energy analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), said:

There is a clear need to tap into their massive solar potential to rapidly transition away from a costly fossil fuel-dominated energy mix. Their current 5GW target is far below what the country is capable of.

Isabella Suarez Southeast Asian energy analyst

While the latest power development plan (RUPTL 2021-2030) shows a significant increase for solar leading to 2030, it is still significantly below its 200,000 MW of solar potential.

According to the Government’s roadmap toward Net Zero Emission (NZE) by 2060, new power capacity by 2030 will come exclusively from renewable energy, and starting 2035, power generation will be dominated by Variable Renewable Energy (VRE) in the form of solar power, followed by wind and ocean currents in the following year.

Ember’s Achmed Edianto, Asia electricity analyst, said:

Solar energy should be prioritised as the main energy source in Indonesia's next power development plan.

Dr Achmed Shahram Edianto Asia electricity analyst

The Philippines also has had a high ambition for solar. In 2019, the Philippines legislated officialised plans to add 18 GW of solar by 2030, and Solar Philippines hopes to surpass the 10 GW mark by 2025. If achieved, the 2030 mark would be almost 12 times more than the current level (1,370 MW).

The new administration also seems set on reviewing several key policies on energy systems planning and management, which will be crucial in ensuring that solar not only gets built quickly, but the grid can adjust and benefit from the potential influx of affordable and clean solar power generation.

Isabella Suarez, Southeast Asian energy analyst at CREA, said:

The Philippines is certainly on track to meet its target with all 18 GW of its 2030 target already accounted for in the proposed project pipeline.

Isabella Suarez Southeast Asian energy analyst

India is planning to reach 300 GW of solar power by 2030, a 6 fold increase on current levels. If achieved, it would make it home to one of the world’s largest solar fleets by the end of the decade.

According to Ember’s state-by-state analysis conducted in April, India added a record 14 GW of new solar capacity in the 12 months leading up to March 2022, beating its previous record of 9.4 GW installed in 2018.

India has established a good track record on solar capacity additions and is well-positioned to make a sprint towards its target of 300 GW by 2030, with increased private sector buy-in.

Ember’s Aditya Lolla, Asia senior electricity policy analyst, said:

In the last few years, India saw an increasing number of private power generators committing to their own RE targets, with most of them especially bullish on solar.

Aditya Lolla Asia senior electricity policy analyst

A key challenge for managing this expansion will include investments in grid stabilisation and energy market reform. Already home to some of the lowest cost of solar power in the world, India now needs comprehensive policy reform to benefit from rooftop-solar’s expansion.

Norman Waite, energy finance analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), said:

This cost element will be critical to realising India’s solar potential in the short term. We’d hope the recent volatility in energy prices leads to a redoubled effort to improve the quality of the country’s grid and increase utility scale solar power generation.

Norman Waite Energy finance analyst

While Asia’s growing energy demand has often been framed through the lens of its coal, gas or nuclear dependence, solar power is growing rapidly across the region. With further investments in energy storage and policy support to manage grid stabilisation, solar is well positioned to become a core part of Asia’s energy future.