Global Clean Energy Investment Surpasses $300 Billion For Fifth Year

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Though global clean energy investment again exceeded $300 billion for the fifth year in a row in 2018, it was nevertheless down on 2017 figures to $332.1 billion, hovering around the same mark as 2016 which was also down on the year previous.

Research company Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) published its annual and authoritative global clean energy investment figures on Wednesday, revealing that total investment in 2018 came to a relatively impressive $332.1 billion, though this was down 7% on the $361.7 billion taken in during 2017. This is the fifth year in a row that clean energy investment exceeded $300 billion — though, that is the case only after BNEF revised their investment figures for previous years based on “new information on projects and deals.” Specifically, new global investment figures for previous years look like:

  • $61.7 billion in 2004
  • $88 billion in 2005
  • $129.2 billion in 2006
  • $182.2 billion in 2007
  • $205.2 billion in 2008
  • $206.8 billion in 2009
  • $276.1 billion in 2010
  • $324 billion in 2011
  • $290.7 billion in 2012
  • $268.6 billion in 2013
  • $321.3 billion in 2014
  • $360.3 billion in 2015
  • $330.1 billion in 2016
  • $361.7 billion in 2017
  • $332.1 billion in 2018

The vast majority of technologies saw varying levels of increased investment in 2018. Smaller technologies such as biomass and waste-to-energy increased by 18% to $6.3 billion, biofuels increased by 47% to $3 billion, geothermal increased by 10% to $1.8 billion, and marine investment increased by 16% to $180 million. Small hydro, on the other hand, decreased by 50% to $1.7 billion.

Wind investment increased by 3% in 2018, representing an increase of 14% for offshore wind with $25.7 billion and a 2% increase for onshore wind which saw investments total $100.8 billion. Some of the biggest wind projects financed in 2018 were the 950 megawatt (MW) Moray Firth East array in the North Sea at an estimated $3.3 billion, the 706 MW Enel Green Power South Africa portfolio of onshore wind farms at an estimated $1.4 billion, and the 600 MW Xcel Rush Creek installation in the United States at $1 billion.

Most importantly, however, has been the shift away from traditionally dominant offshore countries towards China, with 13 Chinese offshore wind farms starting construction in 2018 at an estimated value of $11.4 billion.

“The balance of activity in offshore is tilting,” explained David Hostert, head of wind analysis at BNEF. “Countries such as the U.K. and Germany pioneered this industry and will remain important, but China is taking over as the biggest market and new locations such as Taiwan and the U.S. East Coast are seeing strong interest from developers.”

Floating solar power plantThe biggest hit to clean energy investment in 2018, however, came unsurprisingly from the solar sector, which saw overall investment plummet 24% to $130.8 billion.

Part of this reduction was due to the natural cycle of an evolving technology, as capital costs continue to decline sharply meaning that more solar PV can be installed at exceedingly lower prices. BNEF’s global benchmark for the cost of installing a megawatt of solar PV capacity fell by 12% in 2018, but this was caused at least in part by a glut of solar PV modules on the world market caused by policy changes in China — announced in May 2018 and which has been covered ad nauseam. In the end, therefore, Chinese solar investment fell off the proverbial cliff face, dropping 53% in 2018 to $40.4 billion.

“2018 was certainly a difficult year for many solar manufacturers, and for developers in China,” said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at BNEF. “However, we estimate that global PV installations increased from 99 GW in 2017 to approximately 109 GW in 2018, as other countries took advantage of the technology’s fiercely improved competitiveness.”

“Once again, the actions of China are playing a major role in the dynamics of the energy transition, helping to drive down solar costs, grow the offshore wind and EV markets, and lift venture capital and private equity investment,” added Jon Moore, chief executive of BNEF.

Total country-specific clean energy investment figures look like this:

  • China at $100.1 billion, down 32%
  • United States at $64.2 billion, up 12%
  • Europe at $74.5 billion, up 27%
  • Japan at $27.2 billion, down 16%
  • India at $11.1 billion, down 21%
  • Germany at $10.5 billion, down 32%
  • The U.K. at $10.4 billion, up 1%
  • Australia at $9.5 billion, up 6%
  • Spain at $7.8 billion, up sevenfold
  • Netherlands at $5.6 billion, up 60%
  • Sweden at $5.5 billion, up 37%
  • France at $5.3 billion, up 7%
  • South Korea at $5 billion, up 74%
  • South Africa at $4.2 billion, up 40-fold
  • Mexico at $3.8 billion, down 38%
  • Vietnam at $3.3 billion, up 18-fold
  • Denmark at $3.2 billion, up fivefold
  • Belgium at $2.9 billion, up fourfold
  • Italy at $2.8 billion, up 11%
  • Morocco at $2.8 billion, up 13-fold
  • Taiwan at $2.4 billion, up 134%
  • Ukraine at $2.4 billion, up 15-fold
  • Canada at $2.2 billion, down 34%
  • Turkey at $2.2 billion, down 5%
  • Norway at $2 billion, no change

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Joshua S Hill

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