The latest global green energy investment figures are in, and while the United States and China are way up, Europe remains way down -- a reminder of just how important a role government policy continues to play in the industry’s attempted post-recession recovery.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that global green energy investment grew to $53.1 billion in the second quarter of 2013. That’s a 39 percent improvement from the first quarter’s four-year low of $43.6 billion, and was driven almost entirely by quarter-over-quarter growth in the United States ($9.5 billion, up 155 percent) and China ($13.8 billion, up 63 percent).
But that wasn’t enough to counter the huge drop in European investment into solar and wind farms, which fell 44 percent to $9.5 billion in the second quarter, BNEF reported. That’s the worst single quarter for Europe in six years, and because Europe has been the biggest clean energy market so far, it was enough to keep total second-quarter investment far below the $63.1 billion reported in the second quarter of 2012.
Europe’s declines are no surprise, of course -- we’ve been covering the continent’s struggles amidst falling feed-in tariff rates for solar power in Germany and other FIT-driven markets, as well as the swath of bankruptcies amongst European solar manufacturers caught in a vicious price (and trade) war with China. The continent’s massive offshore wind power projects haven’t all been smooth sailing either.
Beyond that, of course, Europe is facing an unfolding economic crisis that could threaten the continued existence of the continent’s single currency, the euro. And while the German government’s decision to shut down all its nuclear power plants by 2020 should boost the need for more wind and solar power, upcoming elections in September have put investors in a state of uncertainty regarding the country’s energy policy future, BNEF CEO Michael Liebreich noted in Thursday’s announcement.
In the United States, by contrast, green investment was clearly boosted by the resolution of the federal production tax credit (PTC) for wind power projects, as well as by some big solar power financings in the quarter, such as MidAmerican Renewables’ $2.5 billion, 681-megawatt Solar Star PV project in California, BNEF said.
Other countries of note include Japan, with $7.6 billion in second-quarter investment, down 7 percent from the previous quarter; Australia,with $2.3 billion in green investment, nearly six times its first-quarter tally; and South Africa, where BNEF counted up $2.8 billion in clean energy investment in the second quarter, up from “almost nothing” in the first part of the year.