cleantech

Bloomberg New Energy Finance released 2010 investment figures that show that although certain sectors like wind and biofuels had a rough year in some countries, the overall trends in project finance, venture capital and supply-chain investments were positive.

According to Bloomberg, new global investment in clean energy reached $243 billion in 2010. That was up from $186.5 billion in 2009. Last year's investment figures double those from 2006. The main factors in this growth were the Chinese market, the expansion of offshore wind, European solar markets and global R&D.

“This is a spectacular result, beating previous record investment levels by a clear margin of more than $50bn, said BNEF founder and CEO Michael Liebriech. “It flies in the face of skepticism about the clean energy sector among public market investors.”

Here's a breakdown of the investment figures, as reported by Bloomberg in its latest analysis.

Investment in small-scale, distributed generation projects rose 91 percent last year to $59.6 billion, notably in Germany but also in the U.S., the Czech Republic, Italy and elsewhere.

Investment in China was up 30 percent to $51.1 billion in 2010, the largest figure for any country. In 2009 Asia and Oceania overtook the Americas and in 2010 it narrowed the gap on Europe, Middle East and Africa as the leading region of the world for clean energy investment.

Offshore wind finance had another good year in 2010, led by a $1.7 billion package to fund the next 295 MW phases of the Thornton Bank offshore wind farm off the coast of Belgium and a $1 billion deal to finance the Borkum West II project in German waters.

Research and development spending on clean energy technologies by companies and governments grew to a record level in 2010. Within this, the main constituent was government R&D, which reached $21 billion, up from $15.8 billion in 2009. Corporate R&D recovered from 2009's recession-hit figure of $12.8 billion, to reach $14.4 billion. That gave a total for global clean energy R&D of $35.5billion.

Venture capital and private equity investment rose 28 percent from the 2009 total to reach $8.8 billion. It failed to match 2008's record figure of $11.8 billion. Among the private equity deals of 2010 were a $400 million financing for U.S. wind project developer Pattern Energy Group and $350 million for Better Place, the U.S.-based electric vehicle charging network specialist.

Public market investment bounced back from its recession-driven lows in 2008 and 2009 and rose 18 percent to $17.4 billion in 2010. This figure fell short of the $24.6 billion clean energy companies raised on stock markets in 2007. Among the biggest deals in this category in 2010 were the $3.5 billion initial public offering in November by Enel Green Power of Italy and the $1.1 billion flotation by Chinese wind turbine maker Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology in Hong Kong in October. 

The largest investment asset class in 2010 was, as usual, asset finance of utility-scale projects such as wind farms, solar parks and biofuel plants. This rose 19 percent to $127.8 billion last year.

In terms of sector, the most notable feature of 2010 was the 49 percent growth in investment in solar power to $89.3 billion, driven largely by distributed generation projects in Europe, where investment grew 91 percent last year to $59.6 billion. Bloomberg estimated that 86 percent of investment in small-scale solar took place in markets where feed-In tariffs have been introduced.

Overall investment in wind gained 31 percent to $96 billion. Around 38 percentof this total was accounted for either by China or by large European offshore wind farms.

Energy-smart technologies such as smart grid, energy management, electric vehicles and power storage also had a strong year, with financing of companies in this sector reaching a record $23.9 billion, up 27 percent on 2009.

In the other sectors, biofuels had almost a flat year, with overall investment down slightly to $7.9 billion from $8.1 billion in 2009 and below the record $20.9 billionn set in 2006 during the U.S.’s corn-based ethanol bubble. Biomass and waste-to-energy was also flat, at $11.6 billion, compared with $12 billion in 2009.

Bloomberg estimated that investment levels will need to reach $500 billion a year by 2020 to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions.

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