Investment in renewable energy dips globally as prices fall


07 April, 2017

The downturn comes after 11-years of increasing investment.

Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2017 finds that wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-energy, geothermal, small hydro and marine sources added 138.5 gigawatts to global power capacity in 2016, up nearly 9 per cent from the 127.5 gigawatts added the year before.

Noting some challenges in achieving the 100% transition, the report mentioned that in some regions, most notably Africa, the United States and Japan, experts were sceptical about reaching that figure in their own countries or regions by 2050, largely due to the vested interests of the conventional energy industry.

Wind power and solar photovoltaics both saw a 10 percent decline in the average dollar amount of capital expenditure per megawatt.

Investment in new renewables capacity, which avoids emitting carbon dioxide when being operated, was roughly double that in fossil fuel generation, he also noted.

In 2016, clean energy sources made up about 11.3 percent of global electricity, not counting large-scale hydropower, according to the new report. Within this, there was a 71GW addition to solar energy capacity, meaning it lead the way for the energy capacity. Solar capacity additions, however, rose to an all-time high of 75 gigawatts.

The analysis highlighted that within renewable energy sources, solar exceeded wind for the first time. Dr. Udo Steffens, President of Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, on the record acquisition activity in the clean power sector, which rose 17% to $110.2 billion. "The other was not so positive - there was a marked slowdown in financings in China, Japan and some emerging markets during the course of the year". Japan slumped 56 percent.

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Mexico, Chile, Uruguay, South Africa and Morocco all saw falls of 60 per cent or more, due to slower than expected growth in electricity demand, and delays to auctions and financings.

USA investment dipped by 10 per cent, to $46.4 billion, as developers paced their projects to take advantage of tax credits.

The report was prepared by the Frankfurt School-United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Collaborating Centre and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

"It's a whole new world: even though investment is down, annual installations are still up; instead of having to subsidize renewables, now authorities may have to subsidize natural gas plants to help them provide grid reliability", he added.

Still, investors got more bang for their buck: renewable energy capacity grew 8 percent to 138.5 gigawatts from 127.5 gigawatts the year before.

In North America, Canada added 1.37 GW, Mexico added 0.87 GW, and the USA added 12.4 GW, for a total of 14.69 MW of renewable capacity added in 2016. The U.S. saw a 10% decrease to $46.4 billion, while Europe saw a 3% increase to $59.8 billion. Investment in offshore windmills in China, however, peaked at $4.1 billion. As part of the Renewable Energy Capacity Statistics 2017, the data suggests that by the end of previous year, the world's renewable generation capacity has reached 2,006 GW.

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