|Renewables Investment Breaks Records |
Global investment in renewable power and fuels set a new record in 2010, according to a new analysis commissioned by UNEP's Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Investment hit $211 billion last year, up 32 percent from a revised $160 billion in 2009, and nearly five and a half times the figure achieved as recently as 2004.
The document, Global Trends in Renewable Investment 2010, an Analysis of Trends and Issues in the Financing of Renewable Energy, reports that the record itself was not the only eye-catching aspect of 2010. Another was the strongest evidence yet of the shift in activity in renewable energy towards developing economies. Financial new investment, a measure that covers transactions by third-party investors, was $143 billion in 2010, but while just over $70 billion of that took place in developed countries, more than $72 billion occurred in developing countries.
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A second remarkable detail about 2010 is that it was the first year that overall investment in solar came close to catching up with that in wind. For the whole of the last decade, as renewable energy investment gathered pace, wind was the most mature technology and enjoyed an apparently unassailable lead over its rival renewable energy power sources. In 2010, wind continued to dominate in terms of financial new investment, with $94.7 billion compared to $26.1 billion for solar and $11 billion for the third-placed biomass & waste-to-energy. However, these numbers do not include small-scale projects and in that realm, solar, particularly via rooftop photovoltaic installations in Europe, was completely dominant. Indeed, small-scale distributed capacity investment ballooned to $60 billion in 2010, up from $31 billion, fuelled by feed-in tariff subsidies in Germany and other European countries, the report finds. This figure, combined with solar's lead in government and corporate research and development, was almost enough to offset wind's big lead in financial new investment last year, the document concludes.
Furthermore, no energy technology has gained more from falling costs than solar over the last three years. The price of PV modules per MW has fallen by 60 percent since the summer of 2008, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates, putting solar power for the first time on a competitive footing with the retail price of electricity in a number of sunny countries. Wind turbine prices have also fallen - by 18 percent per MW in the last two years - reflecting, as with solar, fierce competition in the supply chain. Further improvements in the levelised cost of energy for solar, wind and other technologies lie ahead, posing a growing threat to the dominance of fossil fuel generation sources in the next few years.