The sustainable energy investment story of 2009 was one of resilience, frustration and determination.
Resilience to the financial downturn that was hitting all sectors of the global economy and frustration that, while the UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen was not the big breakdown that might have occurred,neither was it the big breakthrough so many had hoped for.
Yet also determination on the part of many industry actors and governments, especially in rapidly developing economies, to transform the financial and economic crisis into an opportunity for greener growth.
Let’s look at the numbers: new investment in sustainable energy was $162 billion in 2009, or some 7% down from 2008 figure of $173 billion – an estimate revised up from the original $155 billion made at the time.
Nevertheless 2009’s figure was still the second highest annual investment total ever (and four times that seen in 2004) and spending on new capacity (including large hydro as well as other renewable) was for the second year running bigger than the investment in new fossil fuel capacity. This underlines that sustainable energy was not a bubble by-product of the ill-fated credit boom, but a global investment transition that is likely to strengthen
In 2009, governments stepped in as never before – some $188 billion of ‘green stimulus’ commitments began to be spent – and public banks like the European Investment Bank and Germany’s KfW helped bridge the financing gap.
Supportive policies for clean energy expanded. According to REN21’s Renewables 2010 Global Status Report the companion report to SEFI’s Global Trends also launched today, over 100 countries had some type of policy target or promotion policy for renewable energy by early 2010. This represents more than half the countries in the world.
China for the first time took the top spot globally for overall sustainable energy investment in 2009, pushing theUnited States to second place: in 1999 China made 1% of the world’s solar panels; by 2008 it was the world’s leading producer with a 32% market share.
Last year, as export markets faltered, domestic demand surged, especially in the wind sector. The close-to- 14GW of new wind capacity built in China during 2009 was nearly 15% of the total new generating capacity added to the grid.
The Copenhagen Accord, to which over 100 countries have now associated themselves, has brought developed
and developing economies together for the first time on decoupling economic and emissions growth.
But there is a gap between the ambition and the science in terms of where the world needs to be in 2020 to avoid dangerous climate change by mid-century. Sustainable energy, from wind to geothermal and photovoltaic to solar thermal, can assist in bridging that gap if the right kind of green economy policies are accelerated and embedded internationally and nationally.
UN Under-Secretary General and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director
This report was commissioned by UNEP’s Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) under its Sustainable Energy Finance Initiative and was produced in collaboration with Bloomberg
New Energy Finance.
Please download the full report for more detailed analysis.