Global investment in clean energy reached a record of $243 billion in 2010, a 30% increase on 2009 levels, according to research house Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
2011 will have to be a very strong year to beat 2010. At this stage, the signs are encouraging,” said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of London-based BNEF, citing the likelihood that costs will come down for solar panels and wind turbines, and the increasing availability of private sector debt and equity finance.
“This is a spectacular result, beating previous record investment levels by a clear margin of more than $50 billion,” he added. “We have been saying for some time that the world needs to reach a figure of $500 billion per annum investment in clean energy if we are to see carbon emissions peak by 2020. What we are seeing in these figures for the first time is that we are half-way there.”
China attracts $51bn clean energy investment
China led the way in 2010, with a 30% increase from 2009 in investment in clean energy assets, listed equity, private equity and R&D, to $51.1 billion – the largest figure for any country, BNEF said.
A surge in investment in smaller-scale renewable power, or ‘distributed generation’, projects also contributed to the record year, with a 91% increase in investment to $59.6 billion.
The solar sector saw a 49% increase in investment to $89.3 billion, largely driven by this rush into small-scale projects, particularly in Germany, the US, the Czech Republic and Italy.
Global wind investment grew 31% to $96 billion and BNEF noted that investment in China and large offshore wind farms in Europe accounted for 38% of the total investment in 2010.
Clean energy investment in public markets up, despite share prices
Growth in investment was not reflected in the performance of publicly listed clean energy stocks, which BNEF described as “lacklustre”. The WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation Index (NEX), tracking 100 listed global clean energy companies, was down 14.6% last year, underperforming the S&P 500 by more than 20%. Meanwhile, Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s global clean-tech index dropped 17% during 2010, underperforming the S&P 500 by 30 percentage points.
This did not deter a bounce-back in levels of investment in listed clean energy companies, however, with fund raising by listed companies up 18% to $17.4 billion, according to BNEF. Enel Green Power’s initial public offering in November raised $3.5 billion, and was the biggest deal of the year, according to BNEF, followed by the October listing of Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology in Hong Kong, which raised about $1.1 billion.
Spending on R&D by governments and companies is also recovering from the recessionary budget cuts, BNEF said, reaching $35.5 billion, compared to around $28.6 billion in 2009.
By. Jess McCabe