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Clean Energy Investment Continues To Lag Behind Last Year

Two big European offshore wind financings, and a record quarter for investment in Chile, were among the highlights of an otherwise sluggish Q2 2015

Clean energy investment worldwide was $53bn in the second quarter of 2015, just 3% less than a revised $54.4bn in Q1 2015 but down 28% compared to the $73.6bn recorded in Q2 2014. Global investment this year is facing headwinds from the financial markets, with the sharp rise in the US currency over the last 12 months reducing the dollar value of deals struck in other countries; and volatility in share prices, particularly in China, holding back equity-raising by specialist clean energy companies from both public market investors and venture capital and private equity funds.

However, there continue to be bright spots, notably small-scale solar, which enjoyed investment at $20.4bn in the second quarter, some 29% up on Q2 2014. Small solar projects of less than 1MW remain on course for a record year, as countries such as the US, Japan and China, and other parts of the developing world, respond to the improved cost-effectiveness of rooftop photovoltaics after the price falls of recent years.

Other features of Q2 were European offshore wind, where two project financings accounted for nearly $4.2bn of investment between them (the 402MW Veja Mate array in German waters, and the 400MW E.ON Rampion project off the coast of England), and Chile's $1.3bn of investment in wind and solar, the highest that country has committed in any quarter to date. Chile has plentiful sunshine and wind resources, and also high electricity prices, making renewables a cost-competitive option.

Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, commented: "The first two quarters of 2015, taken together, have seen investment down 18% compared to the first half of last year. It is possible that the Q1 and Q2 2015 figures will be revised up a bit in due course as some more deals are disclosed, but we have been predicting since January that this year would see lower investment than 2014 because of the strong dollar.

Looking in detail at the $53bn of investment in Q2 2015, China was the most important contributor, with $15.5bn of commitments, 14% higher than in the first quarter of this year, but down 36% from a very buoyant second quarter last year. Solar accounted for $6.4bn of the Chinese Q2 total, with one third of that in small-scale projects and two thirds in utility-scale PV parks.

The US saw investment in Q2 of $9.4bn, down 4% on the first quarter and 21% on Q2 2014. In third place among countries was Japan, with investment of $8.1bn, largely in small-scale solar and down 12% on the quarter and 10% on the year. Distant fourth and fifth were Germany at $3.8bn, up 80% on Q1 but down 10% on Q2 2014, and the UK at $2.7bn, down 9% quarter-on-quarter but level on the year. Sixth was Chile, on $1.3bn, up 56% quarter-on-quarter and 40% year-on-year.

The largest category of investment in clean energy in Q2 was, as usual, asset finance of utility-scale projects such as solar parks, wind farms, biomass and waste-to-energy generators, biofuel production units, geothermal plants, small hydro-electric schemes of less than 50MW and marine energy projects. This amounted to $30.9bn between April and June, down 3% on Q1 and 41% on Q2 2014.

 

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