Europe Is Losing Its Reputation as a Renewable Energy Leader

  • Clean energy investment in Europe slipped 21% last year
  • China and other Asian economies surpassing Europe and U.S.

The sun sets beyond wind turbines near Fjerritslev, Denmark.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Europe is losing its status as a global leader in clean energy, with investment in the region plummeting 21 percent last year, while spending in the rest of the world boomed.

A record $328.9 billion was invested worldwide in solar, wind and other renewable energy sources in 2015, according to a report released Tuesday by REN 21, an international coalition of governments, renewable energy trade associations and financial institutions including the World Bank Group. Spending in Europe was $48.8 billion, down from $62 billion a year earlier.

Excluding China, which is the world’s biggest clean energy investor, Asia poured more into renewables than Europe for the first time in 2015, according to the report, which uses data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The Middle East and Africa recorded a 58 percent rise in investment in 2015, to $12.5 billion, driven mainly by South Africa’s successful Renewable Energy Power Producer Program, according to the London based researcher.

The shift in renewable investment from developed to emerging economies should be expected given their growing demand for power and cuts to subsidies in Europe, according to the report. Germany saw total financing fall 46 percent, mainly due to changing government policies.

“What is truly remarkable about these results is that they were achieved at a time when fossil fuel prices were at historic lows, and renewables remained at a significant disadvantage in terms of government subsidies,” Christine Lins, REN21’s executive secretary, said in a statement.

Solar was again the top recipient, attracting almost $150 billion of investment, more than all other technologies combined, excluding hydropower, according to the report.

Of the seven technology classes tracked, only wind and solar power saw an increase in investment in 2015. Wind power investment rose 4 percent to $109.6 billion and solar gained 12 percent.

This year may see a turnaround, with strong investment in Europe and a slowdown in China due to a tariff reduction last year. Global investment in the first quarter of the year slipped 13 percent to $52.7 billion, according to the report.

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