Investors Spent a Record $2 Trillion on Renewable Energy

Investors have spent more than $2 trillion on clean-energy plants in the past decade and last year added more renewable capacity than ever before.

The $270 billion spent in 2014 on renewable technologies such as wind and solar reversed a two-year dip in investments and brought in a record 103 gigawatts of clean-energy power generation, according to a report released Tuesday by the United Nations Environment Program, the Frankfurt School and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“In 2014, renewables made up nearly half of the net power capacity added worldwide,” Achim Steiner, UNEP’s executive director, said in a statement. “These climate-friendly energy technologies are now an indispensable component of the global energy mix. Their importance will only increase as markets mature, technology prices continue to fall and the need to rein in carbon emissions becomes ever more urgent.”

Rapidly declining prices for wind turbines and solar panels mean investors get more capacity out of the same investment. For the record $279 billion spent in 2011, investors got just 81 gigawatts of plants.

China topped the list with $83.3 billion, up 39 percent from 2013 and more than double the $38.3 billion of funding in the U.S., which came in second. Japan was third with $35.7 billion. Wind and solar accounted for 92 percent of the money spent, the report said.

In Europe, higher financing for sea-based wind farms and geothermal units offset a drop spending on biofuels, small hydro and waste-to-energy plants. Investors are concerned mainly about the future of government support policies for renewables, said Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“Southern Europe is still almost a no-go area for investors because of retroactive policy changes,” Liebreich said. “In the U.S. there is uncertainty over the future of the Production Tax Credit for wind, but costs are now so low that the sector is more insulated than in the past. Meanwhile the rooftop solar sector is becoming unstoppable.”

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