Solar market to nearly triple by 2018 as Asia leads Europe-EPIA
* 38.4 GW of solar capacity installed in 2013, up 28 pct
* Asia beats Europe as world's largest solar market
* Total global installations stand at 139 GW as per end-2013
FRANKFURT, June 2 (Reuters) - Globally installed solar capacity will nearly triple over the next four years, boosted by strong growth in Asia, which dethroned Europe as the world's biggest solar market last year, according to a major industry association.
Cumulative photovoltaic installations are seen rising to about 374 gigawatt (GW) in 2018, compared with 139 GW last year, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) said on Monday in its annual market report.
The figures are based on EPIA's "medium scenario", which it says depicts the most probable market development until 2018.
Asia is expected to account for more than 40 percent of the global total in 2018, up from about 29 percent in 2013, while Europe's share will diminish to about 35 percent, down from last year's 59 percent.
"Europe's role as the unquestioned leader in the PV market has come to an end," EPIA said. "For the first time in more than a decade, the European PV market was no longer the top regional PV market in the world."
The global shift in demand reflects plunging solar subsidies in Europe, where years of government support helped the sector to blossom, while Asian economies, most notably China, increasingly bank on photovoltaics as an energy source.
In many markets, solar power still needs subsidies to compete with conventional energy sources, such as coal, gas and nuclear.
The Brussels-based EPIA groups more than 100 member companies and institutions, including German players SMA Solar and SolarWorld as well as U.S.-based First Solar and Italy's Enel Green Power.
Last year alone, 38.4 GW worth of solar panels were installed around the globe, up from 30 GW in 2012, making photovoltaics the third-biggest source of renewables after hydro and wind power when measures by installed capacity, EPIA said.
China was the single biggest market, installing at least 11.8 GW, or 30.1 percent, while Europe as a whole only represented 29 percent, down from 74 percent in 2011, the report showed.
Installations in Germany more than halved to 3.3 GW last year, still making it Europe's biggest market and the world's fourth-largest. In the past, Germany was seen as the industry's global growth engine, holding the world's top market position seven times over the last 14 years. (Editing by Mark Potter)