Clean energy investment retreated in 2012 despite China surge
2012 saw the second-largest investment in renewable energy on record - but less than in the previous year. Photo: HANDOUT
Clean energy investment slid 11 per cent last year after governments in industrial nations slashed subsidies for technologies ranging from wind turbines to solar power and biomass.
The $US268.7 billion ($254.4 billion) invested in the industry last year was down from a record $US302.3 billion in 2011, the second highest reading ever and was five times the level in 2004, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Investment fell 32 per cent in the US, 51 per cent in Italy, 68 per cent in Spain and 44 per cent in India. That offset gains in China and from small hydropower projects, which were among the few bright spots in the report released today.
“The most striking aspect of these figures is that the decline was not bigger given the fierce headwinds the clean energy sector faced,” Michael Liebreich, chief executive of BNEF, said in the statement.
He attributed the declines to the debt crises in the US and Europe, which pared support for incentives that bolster the industry, and to a 24 per cent decline in solar panel prices last year. All segments of the renewable energy industry experienced a drop in investment except for small hydro, which rose 17 per cent to $US7.6 billion.
Solar projects reaped the most funding with $US142.5 billion of the total, followed by wind at $US78.3 billion. Energy-smart technologies including electric vehicles and energy efficiency saw $US18.8 billion investment. Biomass and waste-to-energy investment declined 27 per cent to $US9.7 billion.
The figures also showed a broadening of the market for renewable energy technologies beyond the big industrial nations led by the US, Germany, Spain and Italy that for years have been the mainstay for wind and solar developers.
Australia, South Africa, Morocco, Ukraine, Mexico, Kenya, Brazil, Ethiopia, Chile and South Korea each had at least one project that obtained financing worth more than $US250 million during 2012, the London-based researcher said.
China’s total surged 20 per cent to a record $US67.7 billion. It was more than 50 per cent above the US, which reaped $US44.2 billion for its clean energy industry.
South Africa saw investment surge to $US5.5 billion from “a few 10s of millions in 2011” as a result of its wind and solar tender. Japan’s new subsidy program helped investment rise as much as 75 per cent to $US16.3 billion.
Venture capital and private equity investment in clean energy companies fell 34 per cent to $US5.8 billion, its’ lowest since 2006. Public market investment dropped 57 per cent to $US5.1 billion, the lowest since 2004.