Global solar investment shows flat growth in Q3 2015

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has released its clean energy investment numbers for the third quarter of 2015, which shows a slight fall across all sectors from Q3 2014 levels.

However, when the impacts of a fall in the value of various currencies versus the dollar are considered, actual investment in clean energy can be considered to be greater than a year ago. This is as part of a long-term trend of ongoing if uneven growth.

The headline numbers also mask significant changes regionally. While European clean energy investment fell again to reach its lowest quarterly level since 2004, investment in the Americas is booming, with solar leading the way.

BNEF reports that U.S. clean energy investments rose 25% year-over-year to US$13.4 billion. Smaller Latin American markets showed even greater growth, with investments in Brazil rising 131%, and a nearly 10-fold increase in investments in Chile to $1.6 billion.

While BNEF did not break out national results by technology, solar has dominated Chile’s clean energy deployment. GTM Research estimates that over 2 GW of solar PV was under construction in Chile at the end of the second quarter of 2015, making it by far the largest solar market in Latin America.

Globally, a larger share of clean energy investment is going to distributed renewable energy projects, a field which is dominated by solar PV. While global asset finance for utility-scale renewable energy projects fell 4% year-over-year to $47.3 billion, investments in distributed generation increased 21% to $19 billion.

Additionally, Q3 was a good quarter for concentrating solar power (CSP or solar thermal electric) projects. The global market for CSP has been slow in the past few years, with competition from PV and siting issues effectively halting the deployment of CSP in the southwestern United States. However, the technology is now moving to new markets in other continents.

BNEF reports that among the largest projects to be financed during the quarter were CSP projects in China, Israel and South Africa. This includes $866 million invested in the 200 MW Qinghai CSP project in China and $749 million invested in SolarReserve’s Redstone 100 MW CSP complex in South Africa.

Overall, China’s clean energy sector continued to attract the most funding at $26.7 billion, roughly double the level of the United States. Generally the rise in Chinese clean energy spending has been more even than in the United States.

BNEF also reports an increase in clean energy venture capital (VC) funding to $2 billion during Q3, which is as much as the entire year 2014. This echoes the up-tick that Mercom Capital reported for solar VC funding during the quarter.

BNEF’s quarterly clean energy investment numbers look at both corporate funding and project finance across a range of technologies, including the impacts of mergers, acquisitions and buy-outs.