US remains on China’s heels in the race to sustainability


Investment in renewable energy capacity worldwide was $282.2 billion last year, according to new data from BloombergNEF (BNEF) increasing by 1% compared to 2018’s $280.2 billion, with China, the world’s biggest market slipping back whilst the second-largest investor, the US hit new records.

According to BNEF, what had started as a subdued first few months of 2019, picked up pace in the second half of the year, with notable increases in investment including US onshore wind and, in particular, offshore wind in China and Europe.

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Overall renewable energy capacity investment figures for 2019 saw wind (onshore and offshore) beat solar on with $138.2 billion globally, an increase of 6%. Solar was close behind, at $131.1 billion, having fallen 3%.

Falling capital costs in wind and solar meant that the two combined are likely to have seen around 180GW added last year, increasing by 20GW since 2018.

China, whilst remaining the highest investor in renewables at $83.4 billion in 2019, slowed by 8% compared to 2018 – the lowest figure since 2013. Solar plummeted by a massive 33%, but wind rose 10% to $55 billion.

The US was the second-largest investing country in renewable energy capacity, at $55.5 billion, spiking 28% year-on-year, due to a rush by wind and solar developers to qualify for federal tax credits due to be scaled-back in 2020.

“It’s notable that in this third year of the Trump presidency, which has not been particularly supportive of renewables, U.S. clean energy investment set a new record by a country mile,” said Ethan Zindler, head of Americas for BNEF, noting that the second-highest year for investment ($45.7 billion) came in Trump’s first year, 2017. “These technologies are more cost-competitive than ever, and the fact that there was a tax credit step-down on the horizon made the market particularly busy in 2019.”

Europe was a hairs-breadth behind the US, investing $54.3 billion in renewables capacity, although this represented a 7% decline since 2018. Spain led the way with $8.4 billion, up 25% in 2018 and the highest annual figure for that country since 2011.

The U.K. invested $5.3 billion, dropping by a shocking 40% – the lowest investment level in over a decade, whilst Germany fared slightly better – investment fell 30% to just $4.4 billion, its lowest since 2004.

Sweden was down 19%, with $3.7 billion, and the Netherlands saw investments grow by a quarter to $5.5 billion, whilst France’s renewable resources grew 3% higher at $4.4 billion.

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2019’s biggest winner on the road to sustainability – Ukraine saw renewables investment grow 56% $3.4 billion.

More on BNEF’s 2019 clean energy investment figures can be found at BNEF also published its 10 Predictions for 2020 in energy, transport and sustainability today. Click here to view them.