London and New York, 12 January 2012 – Global investment in clean energy reached a new record of $260bn in 2011, up 5% on 2010 and almost five times the total of $53.6bn in 2004. Investment in solar far outstripped that in wind, and perhaps of most note, US clean energy investment moved back ahead of China for the first time since 2008, according to the latest authoritative data from analysis company Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Last year also saw the one trillionth dollar invested in clean energy globally since the company started compiling data in 2004.
The record investment figures for 2011 are particularly striking because they were achieved during a turbulent year for the world economy in general and for the clean energy sector in particular. The industry has suffered severe pressure on the profit margins of manufacturers, a sharp fall in share prices, some notable bankruptcies, cuts in European government subsidy support, and a reduction in the availability of bank finance.
Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said: “The performance of solar is even more remarkable when you consider that the price of photovoltaic modules fell by close to 50% during 2011, and now stands 75% lower than three years ago, in mid-2008. The cost of PV technology has fallen, but the volume of PV sold has increased by a much greater factor as it approached competitiveness with other sources of power.”
A second highlight was the performance of the US in 2011. In 2008, the US was by far the largest single country worldwide in terms of total investment in clean energy, but it was overtaken by China in 2009. China increased its lead in 2010. However in 2011, the US roared ahead once again, with total investment surging to $55.9bn, up 33%; China saw investment rise just 1% to $47.4bn.
Liebreich commented: “The news that the US jumped back into the lead in clean energy investment last year will reassure those who worried that it was falling behind other countries. However before anyone in Washington celebrates too much, the US figure was achieved thanks in large part to support initiatives such as the federal loan guarantee programme and a Treasury grant programme which have now expired. The country’s principal remaining support measure for renewable energy, the Production Tax Credit, is currently also scheduled to fall away at the end of 2012 unless it is extended. There may be a rush to get projects completed in 2012, followed by a slump in investment in 2013 if it expires.”