The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the installed capacity will triple by 2018, increasing from the current 3.2 GW to nearly 10 GW, due to the building of solar thermal power plants. This positive global development in the expansion of solar thermal power plants is attributable to projects being extended into many countries and is accompanied by substantial cost reductions in electricity production prices of newly-initiated power plant projects. Within the next five to ten years, solar thermal plants in favourable locations are likely to be capable of competing with electricity from medium load power plants, depending on the development of the total costs of fossil fuels (purchasing and CO2 avoidance costs).
One of the most promising future markets, for example, appears to be the Arabian Peninsula. There are plans to build solar thermal power plants with a total capacity of some 25 GW in Saudi Arabia by 2032. Other large-scale projects are currently being implemented in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Kuwait.
Current developments in Europe are being significantly affected by the ongoing economic crisis, which has caused drastic retroactive cutbacks in feed-in tariffs, especially in Spain, an important market for the solar thermal industry. At the end of 2013, Spain boasted 2,300 MW, the most installed capacity in operation worldwide at present. The largest active market is currently found in the USA. Further expansion is taking place in other regions and countries, and by 2018 nearly 10 GW are likely to be in operation around the world.