Continued Growth in Renewable Energy Investments

Emerging from the global economic recession, investments in renewable energy technologies continued their steady rise in 2011. Total new investments in renewable power and fuels (excluding large hydropower and solar hot water) jumped 17 percent—reaching $257 billion, up from $220 billion in 2010.1 (See Figure 1.) In a year marked by falling costs for renewable energy technologies, net investment in renewable power capacity was $40 billion greater than investment in fossil fuel capacity.2 (Through the first half of 2012, however, total investment fell behind the impressive pace set the previous year, attracting slightly under $108 billion compared with nearly $125 billion in the first half of 2011.)3

Renewable Energy Finance Figure 1

Total renewable energy investments in industrial countries in 2011 accounted for 65 percent of global investment, increasing 21 percent to $168 billion overall.4 In contrast, the 35 percent of global new investment that went to developing countries increased 10 percent, to $89 billion.5 Of that sum, China, India, and Brazil accounted for $71 billion in total investment.6 Investment in India grew 62 percent—the highest growth rate for any single country over 2010 totals.7 In 2011, “financial new investment” in renewable energy installations (a category that excludes small-scale projects and R&D) in industrial countries outpaced investments in the developing world, but in 2010 investments in this category in developing countries had surpassed those in industrial countries for the first time.8

A major development in 2011 was the dominance of solar power in technology-specific investments, driven by a 50 percent reduction in price over the year, with $147.4 billion invested in this technology compared with $83.8 billion for wind projects and $10.6 billion for biomass and waste-to-energy technology.9 (See Table 1.) While this was not the first time solar surpassed wind in total investment, it was the first time that this involved such a wide margin.10Biofuels, which as recently as 2006 held the second overall ranking in technologies, attracted the fourth highest total investment in 2011 at $6.8 billion, followed by $5.8 billion for small hydro and $2.9 billion for geothermal installations.11 Marine energy technologies received only $200 million as they have not been yet commercially deployed.12

 

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