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Mixed Results for 2019 Show Slight Rise in Renewable Energy Investment

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World renewable energy investment hit US$282.2 billion last year, slightly higher than 2018’s total of $280.2 billion, with investment declining in China but hitting a record high in the United States, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports.

BloombergNEF’s latest figures, released last Thursday, “show how what had been a subdued first few months of 2019 gave way to a busier second half, with the highlights including U.S. onshore wind and, in particular, offshore wind in China and Europe,” the agency reports [1]. “The late surge in offshore wind financings took capacity investment in that sector to $29.9 billion, up 19% on 2018 and $2 billion more than in the previous record year of 2016.”

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On a wider definition of renewables investment that includes research and development funding and “public market” investment in specialist companies, BNEF put the global total for 2019 at $363.3 billion, fractionally higher than the 2018 total of $362.5 billion.

“It’s notable that in this third year of the Trump presidency, which has not been particularly supportive of renewables, U.S. clean energy investment set a new record by a country mile,” said BNEF Head of Americas Ethan Zindler. “These technologies are more cost-competitive than ever, and the fact that there was a tax credit step-down on the horizon made the market particularly busy in 2019.”

The release cites the 432-megawatt Neart na Gaoithe wind farm off Scotland, the 376-MW Formosa II Miaoli project off Taiwan, the 500-MW Fuzhou Changle C installation in the East China Sea, and France’s 480-MW Saint Nazaire project as wind investments that drove up the totals for the year.

China still held top spot as the world’s leading renewable energy investor, followed by the United States, with its wind energy spending growing 10% to $55 billion, solar falling 33% to $25.7 billion, and overall investment standing at $83.4 billion, down 8% over the previous year. The total for solar was “less than a third of the boom figure reached in 2017,” BNEF writes.

“Offshore wind developers in China brought forward 15 projects to beat a scheduled expiry of that country’s feed-in tariff,” said BNEF’s head of wind research, Tom Harries. “We expect the sector’s global momentum to continue in 2020, with the focus on gigawatt-scale projects in the British North Sea and the first commercial arrays off the U.S. East Coast.”

Final figures showed wind and solar combined delivering 180 gigawatts of new capacity last year, up 20 GW from 2018, with wind investment growing 6% to $138.2 billion and solar falling 3% to $131.1 billion. “Among the smaller sectors, biomass and waste-to-energy saw $9.7 billion of capacity investment in 2019, up 9%,” BNEF writes. “Geothermal languished on $1 billion, down 56%. Biofuels were down 43% at an estimated $500 million, and small hydro 3% lower at $1.7 billion.”

European renewables investment fell 7%, to $54.3 billion, but Spain engineered a 25% increase, to $8.4 billion. At $5.3 billion, the UK’s renewable energy investment was down 40%, its lowest since 2007. “Germany was down 30% at $4.4 billion, its lowest since 2004, and Sweden was down 19% at $3.7 billion,” BNEF says. “But The Netherlands were up 25% at $5.5 billion, France 3% higher at $4.4 billion, and Ukraine up 56% at $3.4 billion.”

“The $6 billion of solar investment in Spain in 2019 is impressive because these projects are going ahead at record-low costs per megawatt,” said BNEF Senior Associate for Solar Pietro Radoia. “Developers are building PV parks on the back of low tariffs agreed in government-run auctions or, increasingly, without any subsidy support at all.”

The release reports renewables investments declining 40% in Australia, 18% in Argentina, 14% in India, and 10% in Japan, but increasing fourfold in Chile, 74% in Brazil, and 17% in Mexico. “The United Arab Emirates invested a record $4.5 billion—almost all of it for the 950-MW Al Maktoum IV solar thermal and photovoltaic complex in Dubai,” BloombergNEF reports.