Published on April 11th, 2014 | by Joshua S Hill


2013 Renewable Energy Investment Drops $35.1 Billion

April 11th, 2014 by  

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has released the seventh edition of its Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report based on data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The report details the “latest developments, signs and signals in the financing of renewable power and fuels.”

One of the main conclusions from the report partly pinned the $35.1 billion drop in renewable investments on the falling cost of solar photovoltaic systems — in other words, investment dropped as needed, rather than leaving the industry stranded.

There was an aspect of policy uncertainty affecting investment dollars, but that same policy uncertainty also affected fossil fuel generation investment.


Several highlights from the report are worth noting;

  • Total investments fell in 2013 by 14% to $214 billion worldwide, reflecting significant cost reductions and the impact of policy uncertainty.
  • Solar PV, in particular, improved its cost-competitiveness: some 39GW were installed, up from 31GW in 2012, for fewer dollars invested.
  • The number of markets that can compete without subsidies is increasing.
  • Renewables excluding large hydro account for 43.6% of 2013’s newly-installed generating capacity.
  • Wind investments remained roughly the same, while solar PV outlays dropped 20% despite a record amount installed.
  • In 2013, China for the first time invested more in renewable energy than Europe.
  • Renewable energy investment in Japan increased by 80 % during the last year.

The full report can be accessed here, while a supplementary key findings document is available for download here (PDF).

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  • Bob_Wallace

    ” investment dropped as needed, rather than leaving the industry stranded”

    The cost of wind and solar are dropping. It takes less money to do the same job.

    In 2014 we will get even more capacity added per dollar. Whether growth will be increased enough to make the overall amount invested is not known.

    We are getting much more bang for our renewable energy buck.

    • Michael Berndtson

      Perfect. So all’s not so glum?

      • Bob_Wallace

        Not at all. Wind and solar prices have fallen so much that installation is starting to happen simply because they are cheap. We seem to be moving out of the phase where it takes assistance from governments to get the industries on their feet.

        Someone (CitiGroup?) recently described the three stages of solar. First, the research stage. Then the industry needs help getting established. Then market forces take over.

        We quit building nuclear because the market wouldn’t support it. We installed a lot of natural gas because the market wanted it. Now it seems to be wind and solar’s turn.

        I’m optimistic. Now, let’s see the price of EVs come down and then we can really start reducing our GHG emissions.

        • Doug Cutler

          Speaking of EV batteries, have you seen Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s little tap dance regarding the new Tesla plant? Very entertaining. Maybe playing it down the middle with carefully parsed wording, “we should open the conversation re: Tesla direct-to-customer model.” But what if Texas doesn’t get the nod? Actually, I kinda hope Texas does get it. Belly of the beast.

        • NorskeDiv

          Hardly, we are still building nuclear despite government roadblocks at every turn.

          Virgil C. Summer units 2 and 3 are taking no federal loan guarantees, so clearly the market will support it. This is despite the US’s very slow and very expensive regulatory environment which requires every nuclear plant to be certified individually. If nuclear received feed in tariffs equal to that of wind there would be dozens of reactors under construction.

          A good example of this is Cavelrt Cliffs, which had foreign investors ready to go, but low and behold, the NRC determined that nuclear plants must be owned domestically.

          For an example of the future of nuclear looks like, look to France, or China. In thirty years China will be where France is today, the US will still sadly be burning coal and natural gas like there’s no tomorrow.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The market is not supporting new nuclear in the US. The Vogtle and Summer reactors are being built in regulated markets where the cost of the reactors can be forced onto electricity consumers. In fact, money has been seized from consumers and given to the reactor owners in order to lower the amount of money they needed to borrow.

            Vogtle now has a federal loan guarantee. That means that if the reactors don’t come on line US taxpayers will have to pay off the loans. Summer is early in the process, look for them to obtain loan guarantees in the next year or so.

            In the US we are closing nuclear faster than we’re building them. We closed four last year and have announced one closing for 2014. It is likely that some or all of Exelon’s six money-losing reactors will be have their closure announced in the coming months. We have more than a dozen more reactors in financial trouble.

            When/if any new nuclear comes on line it will receive the same PTC that wind receives.

            France is starting their move away from nuclear. France is installing renewables and has started talking about closing a significant number of reactors.

            As for China, take a look at how wind is pulling ahead of nuclear. And remember that China installed more solar in 2013 than the US has installed in total.

            BTW, fossil fuel use is down in the US and renewable use is up.

  • Michael Berndtson

    I’m seeing the glass half full. Not knowing what the hell asset financing is, I looked it up:

    It looks like renewables don’t need to do things like “home equity loans” to make payroll or expand a plant like they maybe use to do. From the chart, financed assets are going down, but other sources of investment methods are going up. Maybe companies are actually showing positive cash flow and putting it back into the operations?

    Is there anybody in comment-land whose mind doesn’t wander off when finance dudes start talking corporate sources of investment?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Huh? Were you saying something?

      • Michael Berndtson

        Care to expound?

        • Bob_Wallace

          “Is there anybody in comment-land whose mind doesn’t wander off when finance dudes start talking corporate sources of investment?”

          • Michael Berndtson

            Are you a finance dude or someone who can maintain focus when listening to said dude – who can help further explain this most serious of topic I raised?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sorry, I attempted to interject a little funny.

            Didn’t realize that your humor module was disengaged.

          • Michael Berndtson

            I got your retort. I’m trying to strike the perfect balance between fatuousness and earnest curiosity. All joking aside, is there an explanation for the dip in investment that could be considered positive? Instead of my gut wrenching fear of “holy smokes, big fossil fuel is conspiring to submarine renewables.”


            because the cost of these renewable energies are falling fast, less money is needed to help kick-start new renewable energy company start-ups.

  • jburt56

    Meanwhile the world has no trouble blowing twice that amount on smartphones.

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