China and US drove renewable investment growth in 2014

A slumping oil price did not dampen enthusiasm for clean energy in 2014, as data shows global investment grew 16%

Investment in small-scale power generation, mainly rooftop solar, soared by a third in 2014 (Pic: Department for International Development/Flickr)

Investment in small-scale power generation, mainly rooftop solar, soared by a third in 2014 (Pic: Department for International Development/Flickr)

By Megan Darby

Global investment in clean energy totalled US$310 billion in 2014, a 16% increase on the previous year.

China led the surge, with a 32% increase to US$89.5 billion, data published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows.

US investment grew 8% to US$51.8 bn, the highest figure since 2012. Japan, Canada and Brazil also saw strong growth.

“These figures have exceeded our expectations,” said chairman Michael Liebreich.

“Healthy investment in clean energy may surprise some commentators, who have been predicting trouble for renewables as a result of the oil price collapse since last summer.

“Our answer is that 2014 was too early to see any noticeable effect on investment, and anyway the impact of cheaper crude will be felt much more in road transport than in electricity generation.”

REPORT: Oil crash proves renewables are future – UN climate chief

Solar, which has got significantly cheaper in the last five years, made up nearly half the total.

Major projects included the 250MW Setouchi Mega PV array in Japan and the Xina Solar One 100MW solar thermal plant in South Africa, each costing around US$1 bn.

Rooftop solar also boomed, with investment in power generation projects of less than 1MW soaring by a third, to US$73.5 bn.

Despite some big offshore wind deals, the European market was relatively sluggish, edging up just 1% to US$66 billion.

In Australia, where developers are awaiting a government review of the Renewable Energy Target, investment slumped 35% to US$3.7 bn, the lowest level since 2009.

Green bonds

A separate analysis found US$38 billion worth of “green bonds” were issued in 2014, more than double the previous year’s total.

These are investments that offer fixed annual returns and fund energy efficiency, public transport and other climate-friendly projects.

The growth was driven by a fivefold increase in corporate bonds, with energy companies, consumer goods firms and banks catching on to high demand.

The Climate Bonds Initiative predicts another US$100 bn will be issued in 2015, as the market scales up.

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