Global investment in renewables rose by 16 per cent to $310bn in 2014, according to findings released this month.
Year-end analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) shows that the world’s investment in clean energy technologies achieved its second-highest level of all time last year, beaten only by 2011’s $317bn. Among the major growth centres were China (where investment grew by 32 per cent to a record $89.5bn), the US (up 8 per cent to $51.8bn), Japan (up 12 per cent to $41.3bn), Canada (up 26 per cent to $9bn), Brazil (up a whopping 88 per cent to $7.9bn), India (up 14 per cent to $7.9bn), and South Africa (up 5 per cent to $5.5bn).
However, policy issues slowed investment in some countries, such as Italy where investment fell by 60 per cent to $2bn due to retroactive cuts to the solar PV tariff. And as Australia reviewed its national Renewable Energy Target, project developers put off decisions and investment fell by 35 per cent to $3.7bn.
Of the renewable energy technologies, investment in solar and wind projects led the world’s growth, with a number of large projects financed in 2014. These included the 250 MW Setouchi Mega PV project in Japan, at an estimated $1.1bn; the 100 MW Xina Solar One solar thermal plant in South Africa, at $1bn; the $859m, 310.5 MW Lake Turkana wind project in Kenya and the 270 MW K2 wind complex in Ontario, Canada, at $728m.
With $149.6bn committed – a rise of 25 per cent on 2013 – solar power garnered nearly half the world’s renewables investment in 2014 due to its increased cost-competitiveness. Solar projects of less than 1 MW, largely rooftop-based, attracted $73.5bn, up 34 per cent on 2013.
Meanwhile, global investment in wind power grew by 11 per cent to a record $99.5bn, BNEF said. Smart energy technologies such as smart grid, energy storage, energy efficiency and electric vehicles grew 10 per cent on 2013, to $37.1bn. Investment in biofuels dropped by 7 per cent to $5.1bn, while biomass and waste-to-energy investment fell by 10 per cent to $8.4bn. Geothermal power attracted $2.7bn, up 23 per cent, and small hydro (projects less than 50 MW) attracted $4.5bn, down 17 per cent.
According to BNEF, asset finance was 2014’s largest renewables investment category at $170.7bn, up 10 per cent on the previous year. In Europe, seven large asset-financed offshore wind projects reached the final decision stage, including the Netherlands’ 600 MW, $3.8bn Gemini array; the UK’s 402 MW, $2.6bn Dudgeon project; and Germany’s 350 MW, $1.7bn Wikinger project in the Baltic Sea.
Michael Liebreich, chairman of BNEF’s advisory board, said the scale of the growth had surprised some industry watchers who had predicted trouble for renewables after last summer's oil price collapse. While this may yet be the case, Liebreich said, 2014 was too early to feel the effects, and in any case they will affect transport more than power generation.
He added: “Throughout last year, we were predicting that global investment would bounce back at least 10 per cent in 2014, but these figures have exceeded our expectations."