Renewable energy investment boomed last year, according to a financial summary from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Investors pumped a record US$211 billion into the global clean energy market in 2010 – up from $160 billion in 2009 and representing a 540 percent increase in investments since 2004.
For the first time, developing countries overtook developed economies in capital spending on utility-scale renewable energy projects – $72 billion vs. $70 billion, due in part to massive wind farm production in China.
Wind farm projects and small-scale roof-top solar power system growth across Europe were largely responsible for last year’s 32% rise in green energy investments worldwide, the “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011” report states.
While large-scale renewable investment was down 22 percent in Europe over the reporting period, it proved a stellar year for small-scale distributed electricity generation systems, such as residential solar.
Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said: “Europe’s small-scale solar energy boom owed much to feed-in tariffs, particularly in Germany, combined with a sharp fall in the cost of photovoltaic (PV) modules.”
Despite cutbacks to feed-in tariffs in many countries this year, the report suggests a strong solar market in 2011 as the price of solar panels continue to fall.
A promising trend mentioned in the report is a sharp rise in investment into research and development of renewable energy technologies, climbing by 120 percent to $5 billion.
UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner says that these R&D investments, when considered in the context of the global financial crisis, represent a major shift towards renewable energy posing a future “threat” to fossil fuel energy generation.
“The continuing growth in this core segment of the Green Economy is not happening by chance. The combination of government target-setting, policy support and stimulus funds is underpinning the renewable industry’s rise and bringing the much needed transformation of our global energy system within reach.”