Clean energy investment boomed across the globe in 2015, amounting to $329 billion. That's 3 percent higher than the previous record set in 2011, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Record investment flows into clean energy came even as fossil-fuel prices plummeted. Crude oil prices dropped to less than $30 a barrel on Friday, coal in Northwest Europe is down 35 percent, and U.S. natural-gas spot prices remain well below $3 per million BTU.
“These figures are a stunning riposte to all those who expected clean energy investment to stall on falling oil and gas prices,” Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in a statement.
The new record was a global effort. Nearly $200 billion came from asset finance for utility-scale projects. The largest of those were offshore wind farms in Europe and China, where the biggest projects topped $2 billion each.
Distributed generation grew at a faster rate than utility-scale projects, up 12 percent from 2014 to $67 billion. The combination of large- and small-scale solar and wind projects accounted for about half of all new generation worldwide, totaling 121 gigawatts.
In the public sphere, things weren’t as rosy. Public-market investment was down by 27 percent, but Bloomberg noted that figure is in line with 10-year averages.
Many U.S. solar stocks plummeted in 2015; YieldCos also took a beating by the end of the year. Venture capital and private equity investment were up to $5.6 billion, but still far below their 2008 peak of more than $12 billion. Green bonds, which had a breakout year in 2014, grew further in 2015.
The biggest market remains China, which continues to strengthen its leading role internationally. Clean-energy investment in China was $110 billion in 2015, about equal to the investment of the U.S. and Europe combined last year.
The action in emerging markets is picking up, even though the figures are still relatively small. South Africa’s investment climbed to $4.5 billion -- up more than 300 percent. And Morocco pumped more than $2 billion into clean energy, up from virtually no investment in 2014.
Mexico and Chile also saw triple-digit growth rates. GTM Research forecasts that Mexico will install 1 gigawatt of solar in 2017 and as much as 2.6 gigawatts of solar in 2020. (GTM happens to be hosting its first international conference later this month, Solar Summit Mexico.)
“Wind and solar power are now being adopted in many developing countries as a natural and substantial part of the generation mix: they can be produced more cheaply than often high wholesale power prices; they reduce a country’s exposure to expected future fossil-fuel prices; and above all, they can be built very quickly to meet unfulfilled demand for electricity,” said Liebreich. “It is very hard to see these trends going backward, in light of December’s Paris Climate Agreement.”