2015: 57 GW of solar PV installed, clean energy investment hits highest ever levels

The latest figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) indicate that both solar PV and wind installed around 30% more capacity in 2015 than in the previous year, at 57 GW and 64 GW, respectively.

The solar PV figure is slightly under that calculated by BNEF in November 2014, when it forecast new installs of 58.3 GW, but is in line with Mercom Capital’s expectations of 57.4 GW. It is also under the 59 GW anticipated by IHS, but is more than the 55 GW GTM Research’s forecast.

Clean energy investment

BNEF’s calculations also show investment in clean energies like solar and wind soared in 2015 to reach $329.3 billion, up 4% on the previous year, which attracted $315.9 billion.

In addition to setting a new record, the figure is particularly impressive given the presence of four factors which could have acted as impediments to growth, says BNEF, namely: declining solar PV costs; a strong U.S. currency, EU economic weakness; and plunging commodity prices for fossil fuels.

Sector breakdown

At $199 billion (up 6% on 2014), utility-scale projects received the lion’s share of last year’s clean energy investment. For the solar PV industry, the biggest single investment involved First Solar’s 294 MW Silver State South project in southern Nevada, which received around $744 million. The NOORo portfolio in Morocco, meanwhile, represented the biggest solar thermal investment at roughly $1.8 billion.

Spending on rooftop and smaller-scale projects saw the second biggest allocation of investment, at $67.4 billion, up 12% on 2014. According to BNEF, Japan was the leading market here, followed by the U.S. and then China. Investment in such technologies as smart grid and utility-scale battery storage also grew, 11%, on 2014, to reach $20 billion.

Representing the only decrease, public market investment fell 27% from 2014 to hit $14.4 billion. The top deals in this category saw a $750 million secondary share issue by Tesla Motors, and a $688 million initial public offering by TerraForm Global. Venture capital and private equity investors, meanwhile, invested $5.6 billion into clean energy last year, up 27% on 2014.

Marking a just 1% increase, government and corporate research and development spending totaled $28.3 billion. “This figure provides a benchmark for any surge in spending in the wake of announcements at COP21 in Paris by consortia of governments and private investors,” said BNEF in a statement released.

Leading the charge

Overall, China was found to be the biggest investor in clean energy, channeling 17% in the sector in 2015 to reach $110.5 billion. Representing an 8% increase, the U.S. invested $56 billion, to become the second largest investor. Wind and solar were the main beneficiaries in both instances. Down 18%, Europe recorded its lowest level of clean energy investment since 2006, at $58.5 billion.

See the following table for BNEF’s geographical calculations and remarks:


Investment (US$ billions)




Up 17% on 2014



Up 8% on 2014



Up 24% in 2014, EU’s strongest market



Down 42% on 2014



Down 53% on 2014



Down 10% on 2014



Up 23% on 2014, but still not enough to meet government’s clean energy targets



Up 3% on 2014



Down 43% on 2014



Up 16% on 2014



Up 114% on 2014, considered a new market



Up 157% on 2014, considered a new market

South Africa


Up 329% on 2014, considered a new market



Up from almost zero on 2014

Africa and the Middle East


Up 54% on 2014, big potential for clean energy

Michael Liebreich, chairman of the BNEF advisory board commented, "These figures are a stunning riposte to all those who expected clean energy investment to stall on falling oil and gas prices. They highlight the improving cost-competitiveness of solar and wind power, driven in part by the move by many countries to reverse-auction new capacity rather than providing advantageous tariffs, a shift that has put producers under continuing price pressure.”