- Wood Mackenzie says China exported $52 billion worth of solar in 2022, with a 64% annual increase
- Europe was the largest market for Chinese modules whereas Southeast Asia accounted for largest share of Chinese cell exports
- In 2026, Chinese export capacity for upstream wafers and cells will grow to more than 230 GW
- China’s available module capacity for export is also anticipated to grow gradually to 149 GW by 2026
- Chinese solar products will continue to be cost-competitive globally due to low energy costs, government support
In the midst of growing calls for solar supply chain diversification globally, China continued to experience significant demand for its solar products having exported $52 billion worth of products in 2022 reflecting a 64% annual jump, according to an analysis from Wood Mackenzie.
Specifically, Chinese exports for wafer grew by 44% YoY, cell by 111% and modules by 42% annually in 2022.
It was mainly due to high power prices driven by energy crisis that led to increased demand for Chinese solar panels last year. At the same time, Chinese modules are cost-competitive compared to their global peers, with a difference of as much as 57% thanks mainly to material cost.
While the US and European Union (EU) solar manufacturing is ‘not competitive without subsidies’, analysts say Chinese panels win on low energy costs, manufacturing with economies of scale and government support.
Wood Mackenzie’s Research Director Alex Whitworth believes despite the benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), local module production in the US will not be able to compete against imported modules from Asia, especially since there will be a significant lack of wafer and cell production.
Europe is likely to remain dependent on imports as well because of lack of specific policies to accelerate capacity build outs that can displace imports while it talks about trade restrictions.
Another emerging solar manufacturing destination India doesn’t have enough financial support to achieve its aggressive targets, according to Whitworth.
Meanwhile, in 2022 Europe accounted for 56% annual share of Chinese solar modules last year. As for Chinese solar cells, there was more than 100% annual growth as Southeast Asia took 31% share of cell exports. “US tariffs on Chinese-made modules have driven module production to Southeast Asia, where many manufacturing facilities import cells from China,” pointed out analysts.
In 2026, Chinese export capacity for upstream wafers and cells will grow to more than 230 GW, more than sufficient to meet global market demand outside China of 170 GW by that year. Similarly, China’s available module capacity for export is also expected to grow gradually to 149 GW by 2026 as more manufacturers look at investing in upstream capacity that’s more profitable than modules.
Whitworth opines, “China’s massive domestic market scale and supply chain are in a league of their own and appear to be on a sustainable growth trajectory, making it hard for other global players to displace.”