Analyst: U.S., China, South Africa Lead Cleantech Investment Rebound


According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), global investment in clean energy was $53.1 billion in the second quarter of 2013 (Q2'13), up 22% from the first quarter of 2013 (Q1'13) thanks to an upturn in the financing of wind and solar projects and a 170% surge in equity funding for specialist companies on public markets.

BNEF says the Q2'13 rebound was led by the U.S., which saw investment jump 155% compared to a weak first quarter to reach $9.5 billion. China saw investment increase 63% to $13.8 billion. Cleantech investment in South Africa went from almost nothing in Q1'13 to $2.8 billion in Q2'13.

However Europe, for many years the mainstay of clean energy activity worldwide, saw investment fall 44% compared to Q1'13, reaching just $9.5 billion – that continent's lowest quarter total for more than six years, BNEF says. The downturn in Europe helped ensure that global investment in clean energy in Q2'13 ended up 16% below the figure for the second quarter of last year.

BNEF says the figures, drawn from its database of deals and projects worldwide, show that global investment of $53.1 billion in Q2'13 was up from $43.6 billion in Q1'13 but down from $63.1 billion in the second quarter of 2012 (Q2'12).

Financing of utility-scale projects such as solar parks and wind farms represented the biggest category of investment between April and June, BNEF says. This was $31.9 billion in Q2'13, up 39% on the first quarter but down 21% from Q2'12. Among the projects financed were MidAmerican Renewables' 681 MW Solar Star photovoltaic project in California, at $2.5 billion; and EDF's 299 MW Blackspring Ridge wind farm phase one in Alberta, Canada, at $588 million.

Investment in small-scale PV projects of less than 1 MW continued to be another busy area of activity – accounting for $17 billion of outlays in the second quarter, in line with Q1'13, but down 15% from Q2'12, largely because of reductions in the cost of PV panels, BNEF reports.

‘These figures are a mixture of sweet and sour,’ says BNEF CEO Michael Liebreich. ‘On the sour side, 2013 globally is still running below 2012, which was itself down on the 2011 investment record. And European investment is clearly being hit by cuts in support for renewable energy and by policy uncertainty, notably ahead of the German election in September.

‘On the sweet side, the U.S. is back in business following the hiatus that resulted from fears about the possible expiry of the production tax credit for wind at the end of 2012.’

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