Clean Energy Investment Down 10% To $61.1 Billion In First Quarter

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Clean energy investment for the first quarter of 2018 was down 10% on the same period a year ago to $61.1 billion, according to new figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, but there were small highlights thanks primarily to emerging markets such as Morocco, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Mexico.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) published its Clean Energy Investment Trends report for the first quarter this week, and the highlight this quarter was the increasing role of developing countries — again led by the behemoth China, which accounted for 43% of all clean energy investment with $26 billion, a figure that, while impressive, was itself nevertheless down 27% on the first quarter of 2017. Other, less prominent countries also played their part in this first quarter including emerging markets such as Morocco, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Mexico.

All in all, global clean energy investment for the first quarter sat at $61.1 billion, down 10% on the first quarter of 2017, and the lowest for any quarter since the third quarter of 2016 — though, it is worth noting that Bloomberg does not necessarily believe this indicates a trend, and is not currently predicting a fall in annual investment figures.

“The global first quarter figures are the lowest for any quarter since 3Q 2016, but it’s too early to predict a fall in annual investment this year,” said Abraham Louw, clean energy investment analyst at BNEF. “For instance, we expect to see the financing of a number of big-ticket offshore wind projects in UK, Belgian, Dutch, and Danish waters during the months ahead.”

Maybe the most impressive was the $2.4 billion investment into the 800 megawatt (MW) NOORm Midelt Portfolio in Morocco which was made up of a mixture of solar PV and solar thermal systems with storage. Other big-name first quarter projects were the 709 MW NLC Tangedco solar PV portfolio in India which is estimated to be worth $660 million, and the 404 MW solar PV project being developed by ACCIONA and Tuto Puerto Libertad project in Mexico, estimated to be worth $493 million.

However, despite these highlights, solar investment nevertheless slipped 19% overall in the first quarter, down to $37.4 billion, due to weaker activity in some markets and lower unit prices for solar PV systems — which simply means that more can be done with less investment now that prices have fallen so far.

“We expect the world to install even more solar this year than last year’s record of 98 [(gigawatts)] GW,” said Jenny Chase, head of solar for BNEF. “Two of the main drivers are the ongoing boom in China for both utility-scale and smaller, local PV systems, and the financing of very large solar parks in other developing countries as cost-competitiveness continues to improve.”

Things were a little healthier for wind energy, which saw an increase in investment of 10% in the first quarter, up to $18.9 billion. Geothermal investment also increased, by 39% to $1 billion, as did biofuels with investment up 519% to $748 million. Conversely, biomass and waste-to-energy declined 29% to $679 million, as did small hydro-electric projects of less than 50 MW, and energy storage & electric vehicles.

From a geographical point of view, China led the way with $26 billion, with the next closest being the United States with $10.7 billion, which was up 16%. Europe invested $6 billion, down 17%, while India saw investment increase by 9% to $3.6 billion, and Japan fell 54% to $1.4 billion.

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Joshua S Hill

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