Published on January 14th, 2016 | by Joshua S Hill


2015 Clean Energy Investment Surges In Spite Of Fossil Fuel Price Crash

January 14th, 2016 by  

Clean energy investment surged to a record $329 billion in 2015, up 4% from 2014 and up by 3% over 2011’s previous high.

According to figures published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) on Thursday, 2015 was not only the highest year for clean energy investment, but also for renewable energy installation, with 64 GW of wind and 57 GW of solar PV commissioned during the calendar year — an increase of nearly 30% over 2014.

China, Africa, the US, Latin America, and India all contributed to 2015’s record investment numbers.


Image courtesy of Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s new interactive data tool showing clean energy trends in 2015

“These figures are a stunning riposte to all those who expected clean energy investment to stall on falling oil and gas prices,” said Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “They highlight the improving cost-competitiveness of solar and wind power, driven in part by the move by many countries to reverse-auction new capacity rather than providing advantageous tariffs, a shift that has put producers under continuing price pressure.”

Liebreich refers to the assumption made during 2015 at the crash of fossil fuel prices that renewable energy would follow suit. Bloomberg note four trends that were expected to restrain investment during the year:

  • the further decline of solar PV costs
  • the strength of the US currency
  • the continued weakness of the European economy
  • the aforementioned crash of fossil fuel commodity prices

However, despite these very real trends, Bloomberg show that dollar investment globally grew in 2015 to nearly six times its 2004 total.

Global clean energy investment 2004-15, $billion



“Wind and solar power are now being adopted in many developing countries as a natural and substantial part of the generation mix: they can be produced more cheaply than often high wholesale power prices; they reduce a country’s exposure to expected future fossil fuel prices; and above all they can be built very quickly to meet unfulfilled demand for electricity,” Liebreich continued. “And it is very hard to see these trends going backwards, in the light of December’s Paris Climate Agreement.”

Some of the biggest projects financed during 2015 included the UK’s 580 MW Race Bank and 336 MW Galloper, with estimated costs of $2.9 billion and $2.3 billion respectively, Germany’s 402 MW Veja Mate, at $2.1 billion, and China’s Longyuan Haian Jiangjiasha and Datang & Jiangsu Binhai, each of 300 MW and $850 million.

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  • rockyredneck

    The title may be a little misleading. The extra investment in renewables may be because of the crash in fossil fuel prices rather than in spite of it.
    Investment seeks profit and FF does not look good right now. Investment has to go somewhere and renewables may be seen as a growth field with good profit potential. This is enhanced by incentives from government to renewable and disincentives (taxes and levies) against fossil fuels.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Wind and solar are likely to become very attractive investments. With a PPA there’s a locked, stable return for 20 to 25 years. And after that probably a few very high return years as the investment is going to have very low costs and able to sell very competitively.

      The message has to be out on coal. Mucho value has simply vaporized. Oil has to be really scary now. Utilities are shaky. There was already a lot of capital looking for a home. Now the options are more restricted. Could be really good news for wind and solar.

      • rockyredneck

        As with everything else, there are likely to be some excellent investments in wind and solar but also many that will go sour. My question would be, where would the best opportunities lie. In the generation side, manufacture of components or in related commodities?
        My opinion for what it is worth. Coal used for power generation is probably a bad bet. Oil is not so scary as it’s low price is purely a result of overproduction. Market forces will curtail that eventually. Pipes and power have long been a source of high returns for investment portfolios. I think utilities, for the most part will adapt to changing realities
        I am guessing, but that is all anyone does when it comes to investment. Some do it more intelligently than others.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Investors accept lower returns if there is less volatility (risk).

          With a wind or solar farm one knows (with near certainty) what the costs and revenues will be for a couple of decades.

  • Matt

    Ok how can you not have a EU carve out in the chart. Yes they did not surge in 2015, but the chart goes back to 2000 and EU plays a large role in that historic context.

    • Brent Jatko

      Agreed, Matt.

  • Brett

    I wouldn’t consider the falling price of solar PV as a constraining factor on investment, you’re just getting more bang for your buck. Looks like a pretty good news story, showing the decoupling of clean energy investment from fossil fuel commodity prices.

    • Kevin McKinney

      Yes. But you don’t need infinite bang for your buck, and the ability to add capacity is limited, so falling prices can drive down the amount invested some.

  • JamesWimberley

    Th price drops are so large that a small increase in investment bought a large increase in watts.
    Note for wonks: Bloomberg are calculating in dollars, a currency which rose against others. So the total understated the real increase in spending in yuan. They should really be using a weighted basket of currencies.

  • Omega Centauri

    I look at that graph and conclude, but for China, it would have stalled, i.e. China’s investment keeps going up, everyone elses is fickle.

    • Brett

      Well, seeing as China makes up almost 25% of the global population, and the country with some of the most severe air pollution issues, one would expect them to be leading the charge.

  • Mike Shurtleff

    Nice article Joshua. Nice to see this graphed out so it’s clear. A lot of nice stuff last year, please keep up the good work. mike

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