Global investment in renewable energy hit USD 288.9 billion in 2018, with the amount spent on new capacity far exceeding the financial backing for new fossil fuel power, according to new figures published today.
These numbers, produced by BloombergNEF (BNEF), are being published today as part of REN21’s Renewables 2019 Global Status Report.
The numbers show that while investment was 11 per cent down over the previous year, 2018 was the ninth successive year in which it exceeded USD 200 billion and the fifth successive year above USD 250 billion. The figure does not include hydropower above 50MW, which saw an additional USD 16 billion invested – also down on 2017, when USD 40 billion was invested.
The dip in investment in 2018 can be partly attributed to falling technology costs in solar photovoltaics, which meant that the required capacity could be secured at a lower cost, and a slowdown in solar power deployment in China.
However, globally, solar was still the largest focus of investment, with USD 139.7 billion in 2018, down 22 per cent. Wind power investment increased two per cent in 2018, to USD 134.1 billion. The other sectors lagged far behind, although investment in biomass and waste-to-energy increased 54 per cent, to USD 8.7 billion.
The figures compare the amount invested in new renewable power capacity, which was USD 272.3 billion globally in 2018 (excluding large hydro), with that in new coal- and gas-fired generating capacity, which was USD 95 billion.
“Global trends continue to indicate that investing in renewable energy is investing in a profitable future. Investments in renewable energy in 2018 were three times higher than the amount invested in new coal and gas-fired generators,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme. “While this is encouraging, we need to significantly step up the pace, if we are to meet international climate & development goals.”
China leads, Europe and developing countries rally
A geographical breakdown of the USD 288.9 billion figure for total renewable energy investment in 2018 shows that China led investment worldwide for the seventh successive year, at USD 91.2 billion. However, this was down 37 per cent from 2017’s record number, due to a number of factors including a mid-year change in the government’s feed-in tariff policy, which hit investment in solar power.
China also accounted for 32 per cent of the global total investment, followed by Europe at 21 per cent, the United States at 17 per cent, and Asia-Oceania (excluding China and India) at 15 per cent. Smaller shares were seen in India at 5 per cent, the Middle East and Africa at 5 per cent, the Americas (excluding Brazil and the United States) at 3 per cent and Brazil at 1 per cent.
If China is excluded, renewable energy investment in the developing world actually increased 6 per cent to USD 61.6 billion, a record high.
“When overall investment falls, it is easy to think we are moving backwards, but that is not the case,” Angus McCrone, Chief Editor at BloombergNEF, commented: “Renewable energy is getting less expensive and we are seeing a broadening of investment activity in wind and solar to more countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Africa.”
Investment in Europe jumped 39 per cent to USD 61.2 billion, the highest level in two years, driven largely by large on- and off-shore wind investments.
In the United States, investment edged up 1 per cent to USD 48.5 billion, the highest level since 2011, also driven by an increase in wind power financing.
Investment in the Asia-Pacific region (excluding China and India) increased 6 per cent to USD 44.2 billion, the highest level in three years, while the Middle East and Africa saw investment leap 57 per cent to a record USD 15.4 billion. However, in the Americas (excluding Brazil and the United States), investment declined 23 per cent (excluding large hydropower) to USD 9.8 billion.
“It is reassuring to see investment growing in the US,” said Prof. Dr. Nils Stieglitz, President of Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, involved in the report, “Ironically, this renewables investment growth may in part be driven by projects rushing to qualify for the current tax-support scheme, which is due to expire in only a few years as chances for extension are currently quite low.”
A wealth of more detailed information on global investment in the financing of renewables in 2018 will be shared in the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report, to be released in September ahead of the Global Climate Action summit of the UN Secretary-General. That report has been published every year since 2007. this year’s edition is co-funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. It will feature a look back on a decade of renewable energy investment.