Developing countries invested more in renewable energy last year, overtaking the developed world for the first time, a UN report has revealed.
A generation ahead: renewables investment in the Middle East and Africa doubled in 2010
Global investment in renewables grew by one third last year, to $211 billion, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report, based on research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
Government-funded R&D investment also jumped 121% to $5.3 billion, but at the same time corporations spent less on research, with economic troubles causing a 12% drop to $3.3 billion.
Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP, said: “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.”
Investors poured $72 billion into utility-scale renewable energy projects and equity for renewable energy companies in the developing world, edging above the $70 billion invested in developed economies such as Europe and North America.
China saw a 28% growth in ‘financial new investment’ in these categories, to $48.9 billion, making it the world leader, the report says. India saw a 25% rise to $3.8 billion.
And investment in the Middle East and Africa more than doubled to $5 billion last year.
Europe saw investment in large-scale renewables drop 22% to $35.2 billion in 2010, but this was “more than made up for” by the spread of small-scale renewables, mostly solar panels on rooftops. Overall investment in small-scale projects rose 91% in 2010, to $60 billion.
“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 modules,” said Michael Leibreich, CEO of BNEF. The cost of the solar panels has dropped 60% since mid-2008, the report says.
Although several European countries slashed their feed-in tariffs, investment in small-scale renewables more than doubled in many countries. Germany saw a 132% rise to $34 billion, while France saw a 150% increase to $2.7 billion and investment in the Czech Republic grew 163% to $2.3 billion.
However, the value of acquisitions and mergers among renewables companies dropped last year, from $66 billion in 2009 to $58 billion in 2010.