The photovoltaic (PV) industry generated in 2010 $82 billion dollars in revenues, more than doubling in monetary value over a period of only one year. The new PV installations in 2010 reached a record high of 18.2 Gigawatts (GW) which represents a growth of nearly 140% over the past twelve months. The European market represented with 14.7 GW 81 percent of world demand for PV. Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic are the three European leaders, while Japan and the US follow. Such rapid growth requires capital. Companies part of the supply chain of PV successfully raised $10 billion in equity and debt. As a result, the production capacity expanded from 9.9 GW in 2009 to 20.5 GW in 2010, with thin film production already representing 13.5 percent of total output. China and Taiwan account for just under 60 percent of global production. Suntech Power based in Wuxi (China) is the largest manufacturer in the world.
The German government, the largest market for photovoltaics, added 7 GW in a record breaking year 2010 to 17 GW, equivalent to 17 large power stations generating a total of 130,000 jobs at a total subsidy costs of 9 billion dollars, nearly 1.3 billion dollars for each giga and €70,000 for each job. The incentives agreed in the year 2000 by the German Renewable Energy Act guarantee above market feed-in tariffs for solar installations for 20 years from the point of installation. This generous support has helped drive down the cost of PV systems. The silicon module prices dropped 38 percent in 2009, and 14 percent in 2010 over the previous year. As demand in Asia and North America expands, factory prices are expected over the next five years to drop 50 percent below the 2010 level.
The fossil fuel industry – according to Greenpeace – received last year an estimated $100 billion in government hand-outs in the G-20 member states. Fossil fuel and nuclear have received generous government support for decades. Coal has been receiving subsidies in Germany since 1965, and solar only started to obtain a strong fiscal support a decade ago. However the annual subsidy for coal in Germany was limited in 2010 to €2 billion ($2.8 billion) and the government has passed a law phasing out all subsidies by 2018. The German subsidies for renewables (wind, solar, biogas, etc.) equalled $17.9 billion – meaning that renewables are getting a major share of government support.