World invests $160 billion in solar, up 18% from 2016

Annual figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), show that global investment in renewable energy and energy-smart technologies reached $333.5 billion last year, with $160B invested in solar.

Jon Moore, chief executive of BNEF, commented: “The 2017 total is all the more remarkable when you consider that capital costs for the leading technology – solar – continue to fall sharply. Typical utility-scale PV systems were about 25% cheaper per megawatt last year than they were two years earlier.”

The clean energy investment total excludes hydro-electric projects of more than 50MW, which are likely to have been worth $40-50 billion in 2017 and, if factored into the total would push it to $375-$385 billion.

BNEF’s preliminary estimates are that a record 160GW of clean energy generating capacity (excluding large hydro) were commissioned in 2017, with solar providing 98GW of that, wind 56GW, biomass and waste-to-energy 3GW, small hydro 2.7GW, geothermal 700MW and marine less than 10MW.


The big story was an extraordinary boom in photovoltaic installations in China, but other countries also invested heavily in renewables.

The US pumped $56.9 billion into renewables, up 1% over 2016 despite the less friendly tone adopted by the Trump administration. Also, 94% of all new net electricity capacity in the US was renewables.

In Australia large wind and solar project financings pushed their total up 150% to a record $9 billion.

Mexico’s investments were more than 5 times as big as 2016 (516%) to $6.2 billion.

On the downside, Japan saw investment decline by 16% in 2017 while Germany slipped 26% and the U.K. plummetted 56%  in the face of changes in policy support.

Having said that, Japan DID invest $23.4 billion, Germany $14.6 billion and the U.K. $10.3 billion, all of which still shows signinifcant faith in the technologies. Europe as a whole invested $57.4 billion.

Investment by Other Countries (those investing >1 billion $US)

India: $11 billion, – 20% compared to 2016
Brazil: $6.2 billion, +10%
France: $5 billion, +15%
Sweden: $4 billion, +109%
Netherlands: $3.5 billion, +30%
Canada: $3.3 billion, +45%
South Korea: $2.9 billion, +14%
Egypt: $2.6 billion, +495%
Italy: $2.5 billion, +15%
Turkey: $2.3 billion, -8%
UAE: $2.2 billion, + 23-fold
Norway: $2 billion, -12%
Argentina: $1.8 billion, +777%
Switzerland: $1.7 billion, down -10%
Chile: $1.5 billion, up +55%
Austria: $1.2 billion, up +4%
Spain: $1.1 billion, +36%
Taiwan: $1 billion,  -6%
Indonesia: $1 billion, +71%

Investment by sector

Solar led the way, as mentioned above, attracting $160.8 billion – equivalent to 48% of the global total for all of clean energy investment.

The two biggest solar projects of all to get the go-ahead last year were both in the United Arab Emirates: the 1.2GW Marubeni JinkoSolar and Adwea Sweihan plant, at $899 million, and the 800MW Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum III installation, at an estimated $968 million.

Wind was the second-biggest sector for investment in 2017, at $107.2 billion. This was down 12% on 2016 levels, but there were record-breaking projects financed both onshore and offshore.

Onshore, American Electric Power said it would back the 2GW Oklahoma Wind Catcher project in the U.S., at $2.9 billion excluding transmission. Offshore, Ørsted said it had reached ‘final investment decision’ on the 1.4GW Hornsea 2 project in the U.K. North Sea, at an estimated $4.8 billion. There were also 13 Chinese offshore wind projects financed last year, with total capacity of 3.7GW, and estimated investment of $10.8 billion.

The third-biggest sector was energy-smart technologies, where asset finance of smart meters and battery storage, and equity-raising by specialist companies in smart grid, efficiency, storage and electric vehicles, reached $48.8 billion in 2017, up 7% on the previous year and the highest ever.

The remaining sectors lagged far behind, with biomass and waste-to-energy down 36% at $4.7 billion, biofuels down 3% at $2 billion, small hydro 14% lower at $3.4 billion, low-carbon services 4% down at $4.8 billion, geothermal down 34% at $1.6 billion, and marine energy down 14% at just $156 million.

Read the full State of Clean Energy Investment report at Bloomberg New Energy Finance

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