Renewables investment falls by 11%

Investment in renewables slipped 11% last year to $254bn, with only Japan, Canada and the UK bucking the global trend.

Analysis from US policy think-tank the Pew Charitable Trusts, based on Bloomberg New Energy Finance data, pinpointed curtailment of incentives in Europe and uncertainty in the wind sector over the future of the US production tax credit as having “weighed heavily” on worldwide investment levels.

While spending on renewable-energy projects in the larger established markets of G20 countries fell by 16%, investment in non-G20 markets grew by 15%.

“Despite a slow recovery from a global recession and damaging policy uncertainty, the clean-energy industry has established itself as a $250bn component of the world economy,” states Pew clean-energy programme director Phyllis Cuttino.

“While there was an overall decline in investment, there are signs that the sector is reaping the rewards of becoming a more mature industry." Key clean-energy stock indexes, she notes, rose sharply in 2013, with public market financing up by 176%.

Investment in Japan – reflecting the priority placed on renewables since the Fukushima nuclear disaster – rocketed by 80% to almost $29bn, powered by a solar sector that nearly doubled in size, seeing $28bn spent, which was almost 30% of the G20 total.

Canada moved to up the table as investment there swelled 45% to $6.5bn. Growth in wind was especially strong, with financings up more than 40% to $3.6bn, and solar recorded impressive growth, pulling in $2.5bn.

The UK swam against the flow of European renewables finance numbers that slid back 42% to $55bn; British investment levels climbed 13%, to $12.4bn, bolstered by a wind sector spend that shot up nearly 50% to $5.9bn on the back offshore mega-projects.

Investment in the Asia-Oceania region – Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea – continued its steady flow, up 10% to $102bn. The area is powered by a $54.2bn Chinese market, now encompassing more than 35GW of installed capacity, that is riding a nearly fourfold growth in solar to 12.1GW and wind to 14.1GW.

In a  sign of the renewables industries' emerging maturity, technology prices continued to tumble in 2013, including permitting and equipment costs.

Solar overtook wind for the first time with 40GW of new plants switched on, bringing the global installed capacity to 144GW, an increase of 29%.

Wind additions, by contrast, declined by more than 40% to 27GW, with the US accounting for more than half of that drop, as the worldwide wind fleet reached 307GW.

All in, lower investment levels led to a 1% reduction in installed capacity, with 8GW of new power plants added, bringing worldwide capacity to 735GW.