Clean Tech Shows Biggest Investments in 2010

Investment in China was up 30% in 2010, Largest Figure for any Country

January 17, 2011

New investment in clean energy grew 30% to reach a record $243bn in 2010, according to new figures from research company Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). According to the company report, the main drivers of growth in 2010 were China, European offshore wind, European rooftop solar, and research and development.

  • Investment in China was up 30% to $51.1bn in 2010, by far the largest figure for any country. In 2009, Asia and Oceania overtook the Americas, and in 2010 narrowed the gap further on Europe, Middle East and Africa as the leading region of the world for clean energy investment.
  • BNEF said offshore wind finance had another good year in 2010, led by a $1.7B package to fund the next, 295MW phases of the Thornton Bank offshore wind farm off the coast of Belgium, and a $1B deal to finance the Borkum West II project in German waters.
  • Investment in small-scale, distributed generation projects – particularly rooftop and other small-scale solar projects - surged by 91% last year to $59.6B.
  • Research and development spending grew record levels in 2010, said BNEF, with government R&D reaching $21B, up from $15.8B in 2009. Corporate R&D recovered from 2009's recession-hit figure of $12.8B to reach $14.4B, giving a total for global clean energy R&D of $35.5B.

In terms of sector, BNEF said the most notable feature of 2010 was a 49% growth in investment in solar power to $89.3B, driven largely by distributed generation projects in Europe. BNEF estimates that 86% of investment in small-scale solar took place in markets where feed-in tariffs have been introduced.

Overall investment in wind gained 31% to reach US$96B. Some 38% of this total was accounted for either by China or by large European offshore wind farms.

Investment in utility-scale projects such as wind farms, solar parks and biofuel plants grew by 19% to $127.8B last year.

Energy-smart technologies such as smart grid, energy management, electric vehicles and power storage also had a strong year, with financing of companies in this sector reaching a record $23.9B, up 27% on 2009.

Venture capital and private equity investment had a strong year, up 28% from the 2009 total to reach $8.8B, though failing to match 2008's record figure of $11.8B. Public market investment was up 18% to $17.4B in 2010. However, this was not a record figure, falling short of the US$24.6bn clean energy companies raised on stock markets in 2007.

“We have been saying for some time that the world needs to reach a figure of $500B per annum investment in clean energy if we are to see carbon emissions peak by 2020,” says Michael Liebreich, chief executive of BNEF. “What we are seeing in these figures for the first time is that we are half-way there, and it is very good news.

"The figures do contain an important caveat,” he continues. “More than in most years, growth has been in fairly direct response to government intervention, whether in the form of cheap debt in China, sweet off-take deals for European offshore wind, feed-in tariffs for solar or a regulatory push for smart grids. The industry needs to continue to drive down its costs and reduce its reliance on this sort of support.”