Clean energy investment continues to fall: BNEF

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Investment in clean energy in the third quarter of 2013 was down 20% year-on-year, marking a “worrying” loss of momentum in the sector, according Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Total investment during the last quarter stood at US$45.9 billion, 14% less than in the second quarter and a fifth lower than the same quarter last year.

According to BNEF data, investment was down in the traditional powerhouses of China, the US and Europe. The only region to show a positive trend was the Americas excluding the US, with Canada, Brazil and Chile among the strong performers.

Although BNEF said the “crumb” of good news was that new solar PV installations look set for a record year, because the cost of PV has fallen so dramatically, investment in this sector will be down overall by the end of 2013 compared to 2012.

BNEF said the figures meant it was “almost certain” that investment in renewable energy and new technologies such as storage, smart grid and electric vehicles will end 2013 below last year’s US$281 billion, which itself was 11% down on 2011’s record total.

“After the slightly more promising second quarter, we now have a very disappointing third quarter figure for investment,” said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of BNEF. “US$45.9 billion is still a substantial amount of money, greater than that invested in the whole of 2004, but the loss of momentum since 2011 is worrying.”

Liebreich said the figures reflected policy uncertainty Europe, the “lure” of cheap shale gas in the US and a “general weakening” of political will in major economies.

“Governments accept that the world has a major problem with climate change but, for the moment, appear too engrossed in short-term domestic issues to take the decisive action needed,” he said.

BNEF said asset finance of utility-scale projects was noticeably down at US$26.4 billion compared to US$34.8 billion in the same quarter last year.

However, it said investment in smaller scale (<1MW) projects such as domestic and commercial rooftop solar was more resilient, equalling Q2’s US$17 billion and lower than Q3 2012’s US$20 billion only because the cost of solar modules has fallen so sharply.

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