China cools solar power drive

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China has moved to curb new solar capacity. Above, Chinese fishermen casting a net next to a photovoltaic power station built on top of fish ponds in Yangzhou, in China’s eastern Jiangsu province. (AFP)
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China has moved to curb new solar capacity. Above, Chinese employees working on a floating solar power plant in Huainan, a former coal-mining region, in China’s eastern Anhui province. (AFP)
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China has moved to curb new solar capacity. Above, Chinese fishermen next to a photovoltaic power station built on top of fish ponds in Yangzhou, in China’s eastern Jiangsu province. (AFP)
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China has moved to curb new solar capacity. Above, Chinese fishermen next to a photovoltaic power station built on top of fish ponds in Yangzhou, in China’s eastern Jiangsu province. (AFP)
Updated 17 January 2019
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China cools solar power drive

  • China announced last year that it would suspend new projects after a record 53 GW capacity increase in 2017 left it struggling to find spare grid capacity
  • China is also aiming to gradually phase out direct financial support to the solar industry after a decline in costs

SHANGHAI: China put just over 43 gigawatts (GW) of new solar generation capacity into operation in 2018, down 18 percent from a year earlier, an industry group said on Thursday, after a government move to curb new capacity and ease a subsidy payment backlog.
The new generation took the country’s total installed solar power capacity to more than 170 GW by the end of the year, the China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA) said.
China announced last year that it would suspend new projects after a record 53 GW capacity increase in 2017 left it struggling to find spare grid capacity and pay a renewable subsidy backlog amounting to more than 140 billion yuan ($20.69 billion) last year.
China is also aiming to gradually phase out direct financial support to the solar industry after a decline in costs, announcing last week that it would launch a series of new subsidy-free projects.

 

 But solar manufacturers are already feeling the pinch, and warned last year they were facing closure after a surge in new production capacity in previous years sent component prices plummeting.
“Facing a lot of complicated domestic and overseas trends, the sector as a whole is under big pressures and substandard producers are expected to promptly exit the market,” said Wang Bohua, CPIA vice-chairman, in a speech on Thursday.
Wang said output of solar equipment continued to increase in 2018 despite the decline in new domestic capacity, with solar module production up 14.3 percent to an equivalent of 85.7 GW.
Much of the surplus production was diverted to overseas markets, with solar component export earnings rising 10.9 percent from a year earlier to $16.11 billion, Wang said, according to a transcript published on CPIA’s official WeChat social media account.
China’s solar manufacturers have been accused of using subsidies to drive down prices and put foreign competitors out of business, but they claim they have been the beneficiary of a fierce competitive environment forcing them to reduce costs.
The US imposed tariffs on China’s solar products last year, and its share of China’s exports fell from 5.9 percent in 2017 to 0.24 percent in 2018. The bulk of China’s overseas shipments went to India, South East Asia and Europe.

FASTFACTS

170 gigawatts — China’s total installed solar power capacity


Microsoft tops $1 trillion as it predicts more cloud growth

Updated 49 min 54 sec ago
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Microsoft tops $1 trillion as it predicts more cloud growth

BENGALURU/SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday briefly topped $1 trillion in value for the first time after executives predicted continued growth for its cloud computing business.
The Redmond, Washington-based company beat Wall Street estimates for quarterly profit and revenue, powered by an unexpected boost in Windows revenue and brisk growth in its cloud business which has reached tens of billions of dollars in sales.
Microsoft shares rose 4.4% to $130.54 in late trading after the forecast issued on a conference call with investors, pushing the company ahead of Apple Inc’s $980 billion market capitalization. The companies and Amazon.com Inc. have taken turns in recent months to rank as the world’s most valuable US-listed company.
Microsoft’s stock has gained about 23% gain so far this year, after hitting a record high of $125.85 during regular trading hours.
Under Chief Executive Satya Nadella, the company has spent the past five years shifting from reliance on its once-dominant Windows operating system to selling cloud-based services.
Azure, Microsoft’s flagship cloud product, competes with market leader Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide computing power to businesses.
Growth in that unit slowed to 73% in the third quarter ended March 31 from 76% in the second quarter. Mike Spencer, Microsoft’s head of investor relations, said the decline was roughly in line with the company’s estimate.
Christopher Eberle, a senior equity analyst with Nomura, said that with Azure, “one should assume a slower rate of growth as we move forward, simply due to the law of large numbers.” Still, Azure will bring in $13.5 billion in sales in fiscal 2019 with an overall growth rate of 75%, he estimated. “I can’t name another company of that scale growing at these rates.”
Microsoft tops tech rivals such as Amazon in market capitalization on some days despite having less revenue, partly because most of its sales is to businesses, which tend to be steadier customers than consumers. A growing proportion of Microsoft’s software sales are billed as recurring subscription purchases, which are more reliable than one-time purchases.
Microsoft’s earnings per share of $1.14 beat expectations of $1 according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Windows licensing revenue from computer makers grew 9% year over year, beating expectations after a 5% decline in the previous quarter. Spencer said a shortage of Intel Corp. processor chips for PCs that many analysts expected to last into this summer had been resolved earlier than expected, allowing PC makers to ship more machines.
Microsoft’s “commercial cloud” revenue — which includes business use of Azure, Office 365 and LinkedIn — was $9.6 billion this quarter, up 41% from the previous year but down slightly from the 48% growth rate the previous quarter.
Microsoft’s so-called “intelligent cloud” unit, which contains its Azure services, posted revenue of $9.65 billion, above Wall Street estimates of $9.28 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood said that unit could reach $11.05 billion in revenue in the fiscal fourth quarter.
The “productivity and business process” unit that includes both Office as well as social network LinkedIn had $10.2 billion revenue versus expectations of $10.05 billion.
Microsoft’s latest results contained two weak spots.
Its gaming revenue was up only 5% versus 8% the quarter before, which Spencer attributed to less revenue from third-party game developers and the fact that many gamers are delaying purchases of Microsoft’s Xbox console because a new model is expected soon.
Sales of the company’s Surface hardware grew 21% versus 39% the quarter before, also because customers waited for updated hardware they expected to be released soon.
Total revenue rose 14% to $30.57 billion, beating analysts’ average estimate of $29.84 billion according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Net income rose to $8.81 billion, or $1.15 per share, from $7.42 billion, or 96 cents per share, a year earlier.