For a nation with such little year-round sun, it’s no wonder the UK isn’t topping the tables for photovoltaic (PV) solar power use. But with many countries having shown a commitment to generating more environmentally-friendly energy in recent years, who is leading the field and who is lagging behind? Find out in our list of the top-ranking countries below. And for the latest prices and tariffs, see our energy comparison page.
China has a bigger solar energy capacity than any other country in the world, at a gargantuan 130 gigawatts. It also still holds the record for largest operational solar project in its 1,547-MW project at Tengger, recorded in 2018. These feats are made easier by the fact that China is the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels, which has seen it already exceed the government’s 2020 target for solar installations, offsetting a significant carbon footprint.
2. United States
Home to some of the world’s largest solar power plants, the United States is the second-largest growth market for renewables. Despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, renewable projects in the US are expected to benefit from multi-year federal tax incentives and state-level policies for distributed solar panels in the coming years.
With its advanced technology and manufacturing industries, the Japanese government pledged to increase renewable energy sources from 15% to 22–24% in 2018, including wind and solar by 2030. Since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the country has approached solar power with vigour, setting targets for 28 GW and 53 GW for 2020 and 2030, respectively.
Germany has been a key leader in the production of PV power for years, achieving the highest ranking country for solar PV per capita in 2018. Renewable energy is considered a high priority by the government, which aims to source 80% of electricity from renewable sources by 2050. In the first half of 2018, solar power produced over 7% of the country’s net power consumption, out of a total renewables share of 39%.
A country with one of the fastest-growing solar industries, India’s solar installed capacity reached 28.18 GW in March 2019 and the country became the lowest cost producer of solar power in the world. The government had an initial target of 20 GW capacity for 2022, which was achieved four years ahead of schedule in 2018.
Although Italy has historically relied on foreign imports for a significant proportion of its energy, as of 2018, solar PV accounts for 7.9% of electricity demand, making the country a major leader in solar power generation and development. After the EU set a target to generate 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020, Italy was one of eleven nations to reach the objective years in advance of the deadline.
7. United Kingdom
Government initiatives encouraging schools, businesses and homes to introduce solar panels, alongside a decrease in the cost of PV technology, have helped the UK establish itself as a leading country in solar power production. In 2017, solar accounted for 3.4% of Britain’s total electricity generation, up from 3.1% in 2016. The government also expects that 4 million homes will be solar-powered by 2020.
PV accounted for 5.2% of Australia’s electrical energy production in 2018, and as of March 2019, the country had over 12,035 MW of installed PV solar power, of which 4,068 MW were installed in the preceding 12 months. 59 solar PV projects with a combined installed capacity of 2,881 MW are also either under construction, constructed or due to start construction having reached financial closure. But many would argue that Australia is still a producing relatively little of its energy through solar power, while it has the sunshine, resources and infrastructure to do more.
The French solar market grew by 59% in the first six months of 2018, mainly driven by large-scale solar installations. Overall, the country’s cumulative installed PV power surpassed an impressive 8.5 GW, with the newly installed PV capacity reaching 479 MW. With its political spirit, developed energy industry and thriving economy, France is steadily growing as a generator of this form of environmentally-friendly energy.
10. South Korea
South Korea plans to add 30 GW of PV by 2030, to improve the country’s relatively poor renewable energy performance up until now, with 9% of that capacity to be developed in Saemangeum and 14GW of solar power energy to be installed before 2020.
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