Solar leads Q3 clean energy investment

At US$56.6 billion, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has found that global clean energy investments in Q3 2012 dropped 5% sequentially, and 20% year-on-year. In 2012, it believes investment in this sector will not achieve the record sum of $280 billion seen in 2011, thus representing the first decrease in eight years.

BNEF has attributed the decline to a number of factors, including policy uncertainty in key markets like the U.S. and Italy, and falling technology costs for wind and photovoltaics.

Overall, solar is said to be the clean energy investment leader, having accumulated $33.8 billion in Q3, compared to wind, for example, which received $15.5 billion. However, while up by 1% on Q2, it still reflects an annual decrease of 22%.

Asset finance for utility-scale projects, including solar, is said to have fallen 10% to $32.3 billion. One of the top three projects to receive asset financing in Q3 – $1.2 billion – was phase one of the 160 MW Masen Ouarzazate solar thermal plant planned for Morocco. Overall, solar asset financing reaped $11.2 billion via 132 deals, just behind wind, which received $15.1 billion via 84 deals.

The small-scale solar rooftop market, meanwhile, was said to have received $21.3 billion between July and September, which represents an 11% increase on Q3 2011. "Germany has remained a strong small-scale solar market this year and, although Italy has dropped off sharply after the government brought an end to its generous subsidy offer, activity has been brisk in China, the US, Japan and the UK," added BNEF in a statement released.

In the venture capital (VC) and private equity field, investors were found to have channeled just $1.3 billion into clean energy, representing a 20% drop on Q2 2012, and a 34% decrease from Q3 2011. Again, solar was found to have represented one of the largest deals in this segment, with SolarCity’s $200 million funding round. Specifically looking at solar, BNEF said $500 million was invested via 20 deals – the same amount as was invested in energy smart technologies via 31 deals.

Looking at clean energy investment geographically, markets of note were Europe, with $18.2 billion, China with $14.8 billion, the U.S. with $7.3 billion, Brazil with $1.9 billion and India with $1.5 billion.

"The fact that 2012 looks like being a down-year is disappointing, but not surprising – indeed we predicted as much in January. The decline should not be exaggerated either. The third quarter figure was still well over $50bn – roughly equivalent to investment in the whole of 2004," commented BNEF CE, Michael Liebreich.