China’s Solar Module Production Costs Plunge 42% in 2023

Wood Mackenzie acknowledges costs may remain high in other sectors


Production costs of solar modules saw a 42% drop in China over the past year, settling at $0.15 per watt, providing Chinese manufacturers with a substantial cost advantage over their international counterparts.

Wood Mackenzie‘s report, ‘Top of the Charts: Five Low-Carbon Tech Trends Worth Tracking,’ highlights the decline in Chinese solar hardware costs and explores the rapid growth of renewable energy, endeavors to diversify the supply of battery raw materials, advancements in carbon capture and storage, and the increasing adoption of domestic heat pumps.

The report emphasizes the broadening scope of policies aimed at supporting the development of domestic supply chains for low-carbon technologies and the exploration of alternative sources for critical minerals to decrease global reliance on China.

Despite decreased solar module production costs, the report acknowledges that challenges persist, and costs may remain high in other sectors.

Malcolm Forbes-Cable, Vice President of Upstream and Carbon Management Consulting at Wood Mackenzie and co-author of the report, notes that addressing challenges, such as the $70 billion investment required for global carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) transport and sequestration infrastructure by 2030, necessitates collaborative global solutions.

Module type: M10 PERC. All prices are ex-works prices from the factory in the region in question. Source: Wood Mackenzie

As the leading global solar module powerhouse, China currently holds an 80% share of the world’s capacity, a dominance evident in the remarkable surge of domestic installations.

The impact of China’s prowess is particularly evident this year, with its domestic additions of solar capacity projected to be twice the combined additions of both the United States and the European Union.

Renewables share by 2050

The accelerating success of renewables, driven primarily by the rapid expansion of wind and solar energy, marks a transformative decade in power generation. Wood Mackenzie noted that by 2050 these renewable sources will contribute to over 50% of the global power supply, signifying a significant shift toward cost-effective and scalable power solutions.

This transition extends beyond energy production to the supply chain, as illustrated by lithium and cobalt, which exemplify the potential for reshaping the base materials.

The emergence of price signals is prompting new investments and expanding capacity, laying the groundwork for more extensive and diverse future value chains for base metals and battery raw materials.

According to the report, the next decade could substantially surge CCUS capacity from 80 million tons per annum (MTPA) to 500 MTPA.  This increase is attributed to evolving support mechanisms and regulatory changes, injecting significant momentum into the CCUS sector.

Europe’s thriving heat pump sector further underscores the momentum behind the transition to low-carbon alternatives. With year-on-year growth exceeding 30%, the sector is experiencing remarkable expansion, setting new records in terms of connections for both air- and ground-source heat pumps.

By injecting $130 billion into the solar sector in the current year, China is poised to control over 80% of the global polysilicon, wafer, cell, and module manufacturing capacity within the next three years.

As outlined in another recent Wood Mackenzie report, the projection of over 1 TW of wafer, cell, and module capacity becoming operational by 2024 indicates that China’s augmented capacity will effectively satisfy worldwide demand until 2032.

In another report, Wood Mackenzie said China will install a record-breaking 230 GW of wind and solar capacity in 2023, more than twice as many installations as in the U.S. and Europe.

The expected addition far exceeds the 160 GW renewables target China had set for the year, up 13.5% from the actual installations in 2022.