Even though photovoltaic (PV) inverter shipments to China increased in 2014, significant price declines have caused revenue to drop. Despite PV inverter shipments to the Chinese market increasing nearly 18 percent last year to reach 13.3 gigawatts (GW) of alternate current (AC), revenues dropped 6 percent, according to IHS Inc.
Price wars among Chinese suppliers have become so fierce that many small suppliers have left the market entirely. Despite only formally launching its inverter portfolio in late 2013, Huawei was able to make significant gains and quickly become the second largest supplier in China. Sungrow narrowly maintained its position as the largest Chinese supplier. Due to the increased market consolidation, Sungrow and Huawei together comprised nearly half (48 percent) of all PV inverter revenue in China last year. These two suppliers also both appeared among the ten largest suppliers on a global level, which is the first time that two Chinese suppliers have done so.
"The PV inverter product mix has begun to shift as string inverters made huge gains in 2014, largely owing to Huawei’s aggressive promotional and marketing campaigns," said Frank Xie, senior analyst for IHS Technology. "There is also a narrowing price gap between mainstream central inverters and string inverters that are increasingly used in large commercial- and utility-scale PV systems in China. Despite losing share, large central and turn-key inverters will continue to play an important role in the Chinese market from 2015 to 2019."
The progress of distributed PV fell short of Chinese government expectations last year. Only 2 GW out of the planned 8 GW of distributed photovoltaic (DPV) projects were installed, due to ineffective business models and high system costs. Even so, a higher percentage of DPV projects is forecast through 2019, as the market matures. The 2015 edition of the IHS PV Inverter Market in China report reveals that from 2015 to 2019, there will be few business opportunities for international inverter suppliers in the Chinese PV inverter market. International suppliers have found it highly challenging to succeed in the Chinese market due to the strong preference for local brands, highly competitive pricing, complex business conditions and long credit terms. IHS does see chances for international suppliers to offer key components to Chinese inverter suppliers.