UN: World banking on solar energy

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Worldwide investment in solar energy is surging ahead of other renewable energy sources, fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

According to a new United Nations report on energy investment, countries spent money on 98 gigawatts of solar energy infrastructure in 2017.

This compares with 52 gigawatts of wind power and 70 gigawatts of fossil fuel installations.

The Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018 report solar power attracted significantly more investment than other technologies, up 18 per cent to $160.8 billion.

Significantly, however, renewables investment in Britain fell by more than 65 per cent as government subsidies disappeared.

China ramping up renewable investment

China has been the main driving force behind the shift to solar. A whopping 53 gigawatts of power capacity – more than half the global total – was added in China.

China’s efforts accounted for 63 per cent of the world’s total investment on clean energy projects last year. In total, China invested a record $126.6 billion in renewables – up 31 per cent on 2016.

China is aiming to spend more than $361 billion on clean energy projects in the next few years, but renewable power is only expected to account for 15 per cent of the nation’s energy consumption by 2020.

Other countries that saw steep increases in renewable investment include Australia, up 147 per cent to $8.5 billion, Mexico, up 810 per cent to $6 billion and Sweden, up 127 per cent to $3.7 billion.

In the Untied States, which is the second largest investor in renewable energy, renewable energy investment fell 6 per cent to $40.5 billion.

Britain had an even steeper decline, however, with investment falling 65% to $7.6 billion as subsidies for onshore wind and utility-scale solar projects dried up.

Altogether, European renewable energy investment declined by 36 per cent to 40.9 billion. Primarily this was driven by a faltering of government support in mature energy markets.

Renewable energy investment in Europe by country

  2017 % growth on 2016
Germany 10.4 -35%
United Kingdom 7.6 -65%
Sweden 3.7 127%
France 2.6 -14%
Turkey 2.2 -8%
Netherlands 1.8 52%
Italy 1.7 1%
Norway 1.4 -25%
Ireland 0.8 1%
Greece 0.8 287%

 

“The extraordinary surge in solar investment, around the world, shows how much can be achieved when we commit to growth without harming the environment,” said Head of UN Environment Eric Solheim.

“By investing in renewables, countries can power new communities, improving the lives and livelihoods of the people who live in them and at the same time cleaning up the air they breathe.”