Global renewables investment fell in 2013 by 14% — report

Source: Colin Sullivan, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2014

NEW YORK — Global investment in renewable energy dropped by 14 percent last year, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the U.N. Environment Programme.Overall year-to-year investment fell by about $35 billion in solar, wind, biomass, small hydro and geothermal to $214 billion. The falloff was acute in the solar sector, which saw the cost of photovoltaic systems dropping and less money attracted worldwide.Solar saw $39 billion in investment in developing countries, down 19 percent from 2012, and $75 billion in developed nations, down 21 percent, the report found.

The top four investors in solar, by rank, were Japan, China, the United States and Germany.

For wind, down 1 percent overall, 2013 saw top investment from China, the United States, the United Kingdom and a tie between India and Canada, by rank.

Investment in small technologies was more of a mixed bag. Biomass, waste-to-energy power and geothermal attracted more money in the developed world but less in the developing, while small hydro saw a 19 percent drop in rich countries but a 40 percent uptick by the up-and-comers.

The report, among the most widely cited about global renewables, described a “particularly disappointing” year for developing countries, as those nations had seen steady year-to-year increases in investment until a peak of $107 billion was reached in 2012.

“The optimistic slant on 2013’s figure of $93 billion would be that some of the decline reflected lower PV [photovoltaic] costs and that the percentage of world renewable energy investment remained at 2012’s record figure of 43 percent,” the report said.

If not for renewables, the report said, global carbon emissions would have been 1.2 gigatons higher in 2013. UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner sought to put his focus on this number in a statement attached to the report.

“The fact that renewable energy is gaining a bigger share of overall generation globally is encouraging,” he said. “To support this further, we must re-evaluate investment priorities, shift incentives, build capacity and improve governance structures.”

He added that the drop-off in investment dollars “masks the many positive signals of a dynamic market that is fast evolving and maturing.”

Michael Liebreich, chairman of the BNEF advisory board, sought the same optimistic spin, saying costs were lower and many leading manufacturers returned to profitability. He said these factors, plus some “unsubsidized market uptake in a number of countries,” were among the “hopeful signs after several years of painful shakeout in the renewable energy sector.”

The report also noted a reversal for clean energy stocks, which ended a bad run of almost five years (and a 78 percent decline) by gaining back 54 percent of value lost in 2012. BNEF said many companies came back in solar and wind “after a painful period of over-capacity and corporate restructuring.”

Click here to read the report.