Solar bucked a trend of falling investment in renewables last year, accounting for nearly half of the US$11 billion total for all new investments for renewables in 2013, according to a United Nations report.
The report noted an overall 14% dip in investment in renewables in 2013, although overall it said renewable energy accounted for 44% of all new electricity generation installed globally.
“The [14%] drop masks the many positive signals of a dynamic market that is fast evolving and maturing," said Achim Steiner United Nations’ under-secretary-general and general director for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The report, ‘Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2014’, was published by the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
The report shows total global investment in renewables was down 14% in 2013, from US$244 billion in 2012, to the total US$214.4 billion for 2013.
Despite the 14% decrease, Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board for Bloomberg New Energy Finance says overall the figures are positive, listing.
He pointed to lower costs, a return to profitability on the part of some leading manufacturers, unsubsidised market uptake in a number of countries, and a “warmer attitude to renewables among public market investors”, as optimistic signs for renewable energy investment.
The 14% decline in global renewables investment is thought to be from subsidy cuts and fluctuating political support, resulting in unstable policies losing investor confidence, as well as spiralling technology costs.
The report also explains the global average levelised cost of electricity from crystalline silicon PV systems declined by 53% in 2013, and solar’s installed capacity increased by 26%, from 31 to 39GW in 2013, helping lower costs.
Solar also topped the report’s estimated figures for new investments from public markets in renewable energy with US$4.8 billion compared to US$2.3 billion in 2013, gaining more new investments than any other renewable energy source, and accounting for nearly half of the US$11 billion total for all new investments for renewables in 2013.
Solar obtained an estimated US$0.5 billion from venture capitalists and private investment – second only to wind (US$1 billion), in 2013.
Asset finance investments in solar also came just second to wind (US$75.4 billion) with US$44.4 billion investments.
Investments for solar for 2013 came mainly from developed countries, where solar projects are being developed and commissioned without subsidies.
The matured renewables market presented in the report “should give governments the confidence to forge a new robust climate agreement”, Steiner said, adding that it is hoped the figures will aid world leaders to cut emissions at the 2015 climate change conference in Paris.
The report estimates the 44% newly installed renewable energy capacity has avoided 1.2 GT of carbon emissions.
To continue the trend in mitigating dangerous levels of carbon emissions, Steiner said: “A long-term shift in investment over the next few decades towards a cleaner energy portfolio is needed, to avoid dangerous climate change.”
Gross investments in fossil fuels, at US$270 billion, still outweighed investment in renewables in 2013.
Steiner added that the energy sector is responsible for two thirds of global carbon emissions.
“We must re-evaluate investment priorities,” Steiner said, “shift incentives, build capacity and improve governance structures.”
Overall China invested US$56 billion in renewables in 2013, the first time China invested more in renewables than Europe’s US$48 billion – a 44% drop from European investment in 2012.
The US also saw a decrease in renewables’ investment by 10% with US$36 billion investment.
India is down 15% with US$6 billion. Brazil’s investments declined 54% to US$3 billion.
More positively, not including Brazil and the US, the Americas invested US$12 billion in renewables, a 26% increase from last year, while Japan had an impressive 80% increase in investments with US$29 billion.
The general investment mood is more “cheerful” with “share prices up, manufacturers rebuilding margins, and renewable energy being chosen for projects around the world on the back of its improved cost-competitiveness”, the report said.