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Analysis finds solar leading the pack in clean energy investment

According to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, global investment in clean energy has jumped five percent from 2010, reaching a record $260 billion in 2011. 

A utility-scale PV project in Ontario, Canada. Photo Credit: Recurrent Energy

This record level of global investment came during a year of both continued overall economic disappointment and upheaval in the clean energy sector specifically.

Encouragingly, Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that solar had more investment than any other clean technology – despite falling price pressures forcing firms out of business, trade disagreement between China and the U.S., and the high-profile bankruptcy of Solyndra.

“The performance of solar is even more remarkable when you consider that the price of photovoltaic modules fell by close to 50% during 2011, and now stands 75% lower than three years ago, in mid-2008,” said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.”

“The cost of PV technology has fallen, but the volume of PV sold has increased by a much greater factor as it approached competitiveness with other sources of power.”

Total investment in solar technology rose by 36 percent to almost $137 billion, almost double the amount invested in wind power.

U.S. Resurgence

Bloomberg New Energy Finance also found that U.S. investment in clean energy beat out Chinese investment for the first time since 2008. U.S. total investment rose 33 percent to $55.9 billion, while Chinese investment only increased one percent to $47.4 billion.

Part of this rise, though, is likely attributed to firms taking advantage of the Treasury 1603 Program and federal loan guarantee program before they expired in late 2011.

“The country’s principal remaining support measure for renewable energy, the Production Tax Credit, is currently also scheduled to fall away at the end of 2012 unless it is extended” said Liebreich. “There may be a rush to get projects completed in 2012, followed by a slump in investment in 2013 if it expires.”

High third quarter investment supports the hypothesis that firms rushed to invest before the expiration of government incentive programs; we can only wait to see how investment will fare without these supports.

“2012 looks like being another challenging year, with the European financial crisis continuing to fester, and the supply chain working its way out of some fearsome over-capacity,” said Liebriech.

“But rumours of the death of clean energy have been greatly exaggerated.”

See a presentation of Bloomberg’s data here.


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