Japan lifts the gloom of 2013 clean-tech investment slump

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Japan was one of the few countries to buck a trend that saw a 12% fall in global renewable energy and clean-tech investment in 2013, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

New BNEF figures reveal that driven largely by a boom in solar installations, Japan saw investment surge 55% to US$35.4 billion last year, up from around US$22 billion in 2012.

But overall the trajectory for clean-tech investment was a downward one, a consequence BNEF said of the falling price of PV systems and dwindling investor confidence resulting from shifts in renewable energy policy in Europe and the US.

By technologies, solar saw a pronounced decrease in investment, from US$142.9 billion to US$114.7 billion. This is in spite of the volume of the market growing by 20% worldwide, indicating the extent to which the price of solar has fallen, BNEF said.

Geographically Europe took a huge hit last year, with investment slumping 41% from US$97.8 billion in 2012 to US$57.8 billion in 2013.

Within Europe, German investment fell from US$26.2 billion in 2012 to US$14.1 billion in 2013, the lowest since 2006. In France, it dropped to US$4.1 billion from US$6.2 billion and in Italy to US$4.1 billion from US$15.2 billion.

This was a consequence of these countries either scaling back support for renewables or creating policy uncertainty for investors.

BNEF said the UK was the most resilient of the big European markets, seeing a relatively small decline to US$13.1 billion in 2013, from a record figure of US$14.3 billion in 2012.

The downward trend was also evident in China and the USA. Investment in China fell 3.8% from US$63.8 billion in 2012 to US$61.3 billion last year, the country’s first reduction in investment in over a decade. The US saw investment slip 8.4% from US$53 billion to $48.4 billion.

BNEF chief executive Michael Liebreich said: “A second successive year of decline in investment will come as unwelcome news to the clean energy sector, but the top-line figures don’t tell the whole story.

“Investment in Europe crashed, in large part because of the falling cost of solar installations, whose volume worldwide actually grew by around 20% to a new record. Outside Europe, the picture was mixed, with some countries increasing and others reducing investment, and Japan the clear leader in terms of growth.”

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