Despite worldwide economic woes, global investment in renewable power and fuels rose 17% last year to reach a record level of $257 billion, according to a new report.
Although the 17% increase in investment in 2011 is down on the record growth of 37% in 2010, the sector is still showing a six-fold increase on 2004 and 94% higher than 2007, the year before the financial crash.
Overall, renewable energy sources now supply 16.7% of global energy consumption and 50 countries now have installed wind power capacity.
But the report also indicates that solar power is now surging ahead, overtaking wind power and attracting nearly twice as much investment to reach $147 billion.
The increase was driven mainly by booming rooftop solar photovoltaic installations in Germany and Italy, as well as the UK and China. Large-scale concentrating solar power projects also attracted significant investment in Spain and the US.
The boom has also been driven by tumbling prices, which have seen the costs of photovoltaic modules fall from $1.50 per watt in 2010 to just $0.60 per watt – well below that crucial $1 per watt – by the end of 2011.
And solar water heaters are now used by some 200 million households worldwide and many public and commercial buildings.
The US is also reasserting itself in the market, with a 57% jump in investment to $51 billion taking it to just $1 billion behind the largest investor, China.
While China saw its investments in renewables rise just 17%, India recorded a massive 62% increase in investment to reach $12 billion.
But before there is too much jubilation, the UNEP report also points out that investment in fossil fuel capacity over the same period was still significantly larger at $302 billion.
“This sends yet another strong signal of opportunity to world leaders and delegates meeting later this month at the Rio+20 Summit: namely that transforming sustainable development from patchy progress to a reality for seven billion people is achievable when existing technologies are combined with inspiring policies and decisive leadership,” says Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP, who launched the report with Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Mohamed El-Ashry, chair of REN21 and Udo Steffens, president and CEO of the Frankfurt School of Finance Management.
And in a tacit reference to the ongoing trade dispute between the US and China over solar panels, as well as between Europe and elsewhere over inclusion of aviation in its carbon trading system, Steiner added:
“It is essential to continue government policies that support and nurture the sector’s growth, and to de-escalate damaging trade disputes. Otherwise, the low-carbon transition could weaken just at the point when exciting cost reductions are starting to transform the economics.”
Clean energy investment drops to lowest levels since 2009 (29-May)
European solar power installations soar in 2011 (14-May)
European wind industry to boost growth and jobs, says EWEA (17-Apr)
Despite record 2011, outlook for 2012 less certain says Ernst Young (29-Feb)
Article source: http://www.energyefficiencynews.com/i/5172/