Clean Energy Investment Rises 9%, Led by Solar-Power Demand

Apr 16, 2014 5:00 am ET

April 16 (Bloomberg) -- Clean energy investment rose by 9 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier on surging demand for rooftop solar panels from the U.S. to Japan.

New investment in renewable power and energy efficiency rose to $47.7 billion in the first three months of the year from $43.6 billion, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said today in an e- mailed statement.

The increase may mark a turnaround. Investment in low- carbon power and energy-efficiency equipment has fallen for two years as industrialized nations pared back subsidies. After peaking at $318 billion in 2011, new spending on clean energy subsided to $254 billion last year, according to BNEF figures.

“It is too early to say definitively that 2013 was the low point for clean-energy investment worldwide and that 2014 will show a rebound but the first-quarter numbers are encouraging,” BNEF Chairman Michael Liebreich said in the statement.

He highlighted two patterns: the increasing share of small-scale solar in total investment, and the expansion of investment into more developing countries.

Spending on new solar capacity rose 23 percent to $27.5 billion, including $21.2 billion for projects of less than 1 megawatt, BNEF said. Investment in electric cars, power storage and equipment that makes the power grid more efficient more than tripled to $3.1 billion, the London-based researcher said.

Wind power expenditure dropped 16 percent to $13.9 billion and biofuels fell 28 percent to $664 million, according to BNEF.

Investment in the U.S. almost doubled, spending in China rose 18 percent and Brazilian expenditure more than tripled, it said. Investment in Europe sank 30 percent and there was an 82 percent surge in investment in Africa and the Middle East.

While new investment in the first quarter was down from $58.1 billion in the last three months of 2013, that’s often the case because developers tend to rush projects to completion to take advantage of subsidies that expire at the end of a year, BNEF said.