BNEF: Clean energy investment rises for the first time in three years

China’s investment into solar and wind has resulted in investment in clean technology growing for the first time in three years. The BENF data shows that investments in solar, wind, biofuels and “other low carbon technologies” grew to US$310 billion in 2014. This is the first year growth has been recorded since 2011, effectively “erasing the impact of lower solar panel prices and falling subsidies in the U.S. and Europe,” writes BNEF.

“Healthy investment in clean energy may surprise some commentators, who have been predicting trouble for renewables as a result of the oil price collapse,” said Michael Liebreich, BNEF’s founder and chairman of its advisory board. “The impact of cheaper crude will be felt much more in road transport than in electricity generation.”

Solar presented one of the investment highlights in 2014, bringing in almost half of the clean energy investment total with close to $150 billion. BNEF notes this is solar’s “highest share of the total ever. Wind brought in $99.5 billion and “smart technologies” – power storage, efficiency and e-mobility – grew 10% to $37 billion.

Looking to markets, BNEF has China contributed 32% of the total investment into clean energy, with $89.5 billion. This was followed by the U.S. ($51.8 billion), Japan ($41.3 billion and Europe ($66 billion). The Japanese solar sector grew to being the second largest, by investment in 2014.

Yieldcos were also a clean energy investment highlight, driving growth of 52% in “new equity for clean energy companies,” totaling $18.7 billion.

The trend towards distributed generation was also charted by BNEF, with the sector growing 34% to $73.5 billion. BNEF defines distributed generation as "all solar projects of less than 1 MW." The majority of this will be rooftop solar, with much of the electricity produced by the array consumed on site.