2018 was the fifth year in a row in which investments in renewable energy exceeded the $300 billion mark, according to authoritative figures from research company BloombergNEF (BNEF).
Clean Energy Investment by Type
Wind investment rose 3% to $128.6 billion, with offshore wind having its second-highest year. Money committed to smart meter rollouts and electric vehicle company financings also increased. However, the most striking shifts were in solar, where overall investment dropped 24% to $130.8 billion. Part of this reduction was due to sharply declining capital costs.
That surplus was aggravated by a sharp change in policy in China in mid-year. The government acted to cool that country’s solar boom by restricting access for new projects to its feed-in tariff. The result of this, combined with lower unit costs, was that Chinese solar investment plunged 53% to $40.4 billion in 2018.
Offshore wind was a major recipient of clean energy investment last year, attracting $25.7 billion, up 14% on the previous year. Onshore wind saw $100.8 billion of new asset finance globally last year, up 2%.
Among other renewable energy sectors, investment in biomass and waste-to-energy rose 18% to $6.3 billion, while that in biofuels rallied 47% to $3 billion. Geothermal was up 10% at $1.8 billion, small hydro down 50% at $1.7 billion and marine up 16% at $180 million. Total investment in utility-scale renewable energy projects and small-scale solar systems worldwide was down 13% year-on-year at $256.5 billion, although the gigawatt capacity added increased.
Other categories of investment showed mixed trends in 2018. Corporate research and development spending slipped 6% to $20.9 billion, while government R&D rose 4% to $15 billion. There was a 20% increase in public markets investment in specialist clean energy companies, to $10.5 billion.
Global venture capital and private equity investment jumped 127% to $9.2 billion, the highest since 2010. The biggest deals were $1.1 billion of expansion capital for U.S. smart window maker View, and $795 million for Chinese electric vehicle firm Youxia Motors.
Clean Energy Investment by Country
Looking at the 2018 clean energy investment numbers by country, China was again the clear leader, but its total of $100.1 billion was down 32% on 2017’s record figure because of the plunge in the value of solar commitments.
The U.S. was the second-biggest investing country, at $64.2 billion, up 12%. Developers have been rushing to finance wind and solar projects in order to take advantage of tax credit incentives, before these expire early next decade.
Europe saw clean energy investment leap 27% to $74.5 billion, helped by the financing of five offshore wind projects in the billion-dollar-plus category. There was also a sharp recovery in the Spanish solar market, helped by heavily reduced costs, and a continuation of the build-out of large wind farms in Sweden and Norway offering low-cost electricity to industrial consumers.
Other countries and territories investing in excess of $2 billion in clean energy in 2018 were:
- Japan at $27.2 billion, down 16%
- India at $11.1 billion, down 21%
- Germany at $10.5 billion, down 32%
- The U.K. at $10.4 billion, up 1%
- Australia at $9.5 billion, up 6%
- Spain at $7.8 billion, up sevenfold
- Netherlands at $5.6 billion, up 60%
- Sweden at $5.5 billion, up 37%
- France at $5.3 billion, up 7%
- South Korea at $5 billion, up 74%
- South Africa at $4.2 billion, up 40-fold
- Mexico at $3.8 billion, down 38%
- Vietnam at $3.3 billion, up 18-fold
- Denmark at $3.2 billion, up fivefold
- Belgium at $2.9 billion, up fourfold
- Italy at $2.8 billion, up 11%
- Morocco at $2.8 billion, up 13-fold
- Taiwan at $2.4 billion, up 134%
- Ukraine at $2.4 billion, up 15-fold
- Canada at $2.2 billion, down 34%
- Turkey at $2.2 billion, down 5%
- Norway at $2 billion, no change