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Low-Carbon Energy Investment Hit Record $243 Billion in 2010

Global investment in low-carbon energy surged to a record $243 billion last year, boosted by a 30 percent spending increase in China and a burst in small-scale solar-power installations.

The figure eclipses the $186.5 billion spent in 2009 and is more than double the level in 2005, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said today in a statement. The investment came even as clean energy shares had a “lackluster performance” last year, the London-based research company said.

The investment “flies in the face of skepticism about the clean-energy sector among public market investors,” New Energy Finance Chief Executive Officer Michael Liebreich said. “We have been saying for some time that the world needs to reach a figure of $500 billion per annum investment in clean energy if we are to see carbon emissions peak by 2020. What we are seeing in these figures for the first time is that we are halfway there.”

Asset financing for utility-scale projects such as wind farms, solar parks and biofuel plants expanded 19 percent last year to $127.8 billion, more than half of expenditure, New Energy Finance said. Enel Green Power SpA’s initial share sale led $17.4 billion of investments from the public markets, while small-scale projects including rooftop solar panels surged 91 percent to $59.6 billion.

Investment in China expanded 30 percent to $51.1 billion, according to the study.

The figures cover technologies including wind and solar power, energy efficiency, smart-grid equipment, biofuels and carbon capture and storage. Mergers and acquisitions data aren’t included in the study, because they’re not considered new investment.

While the expansion of investment is “very good news,” it has been “in fairly direct response” to government incentives, ranging from cheap debt in China to feed-in tariffs -- guaranteed above-market rate prices -- for solar power in Europe, Liebreich said.

“The industry needs to continue to drive down its costs and reduce its reliance on this sort of support,” he said.

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