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Global renewable energy investment reaches a record USD 257 billion

The renewable energy sector achieved record-breaking growth in 2011, according to two new reports on renewable energy trends issued on 11 June by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).

Renewable power, excluding large hydroelectric, accounted for 44% of all new generating capacity added worldwide in 2011, compared to 34% in 2010. Meanwhile, gross investment in renewable energy capacity stood at USD 257 billion in 2011, catching up on investments in fossil fuel capacity of USD 302 billion for the same period.

Total investment in solar power in particular jumped 52% to USD 147 billion, with rooftop photovoltaic (PV) installations booming in Italy and Germany, while large-scale concentrating solar thermal (CSP) projects attracted major investments in Spain and the USA. By the end of 2011, total renewable power capacity worldwide was over 1360 GW, up 8% compared to 2010. Renewables made up more than 25% of total global power-generating capacity (estimated at 5360 GW in 2011) and supplied an estimated 20.3% of global electricity.

One of the effects of this growth is that the cost of low carbon technology is dropping, making it a more feasible option for supplying energy in developing countries. But it has also meant that some countries are cutting their subsidies to renewable energies. "We are entering a fascinating period," said Michael Liebreich, Chief Executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, "with clean energy’s costs starting to be competitive with fossil fuels. The challenge for policy-makers is to reduce support mechanisms at just the right pace – too fast and the long-term future of the industry will be harmed. Too slow and you do the world’s taxpayers and energy consumers a great disservice."

For the full reports, please see:

UNEP Global Trends report:
REN21 Global Status report: