Decline in renewable energy investment thanks in part to falling prices

Surging solar installations and the plunging cost of PV have helped buoy growth in global renewable energy capacity, despite a 14 per cent drop in clean energy investment in 2013, a report has found.

Released on Monday, the joint report by UNEP, the Frankfurt School, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said renewables accounted for 44 per cent of 2013’s newly-installed generating capacity, despite global investment falling for second year to $US214.4 billion in 2013, a year-on-year drop of $US35.1 billion.

But Ulf Moslener, a professor at the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management and the report’s editor, says the focus should be on what was bought, instead of what was spent.

The report finds that the slump in investment is largely attributable to the falling cost of clean energy technology – not least of all a 60 per cent plunge in solar PV prices over the past three years.

This, plus a 26 per cent surge in PV installations in 2013 – a China-driven record addition of 39GW total solar capacity, despite solar investment falling 23 per cent – has helped buoy an industry riddled with uncertainty, says the report.

“A nice comparison would be the telecom industry,” Moslener in an interview on Monday. “Wasn’t there a time at the beginning when it was very expensive? The costs went down, and that didn’t necessarily mean the end of cellphones.”

Michael Liebreich – chairman of the advisory board for BNEF, who compiled the data for the UNEP report – puts about three-quarters of the recent decline in clean-energy investment down to solar and wind cost reductions.

“There’s a lot of noise and smoke,” Liebriech said in a conference call about the report on Monday. “But the fact is, on the demand side, you have smart investors like Warren Buffett who are building this stuff.”

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd