Global investment in renewables increasing rapidly

Global investment in renewable energy shot up last year, far outstripping investment in fossil fuels, according to a UN report.

As the price of clean energy technology plummets, it has become an increasingly attractive prospect for world governments.

China was by far the world’s largest investor in renewable energy in 2017, accounting for nearly half of the new infrastructure commissioned.

This was mainly a result of its massive support for solar power, which globally attracted nearly a fifth more investment than in the previous year. Other countries including Australia, Sweden and Mexico more than doubled the amount of money they pumped into clean energy projects.

In just over a decade, concerted investment has increased the proportion of world electricity generated by wind, solar and other renewable sources from around 5% to 12%.

The global replacement of traditional fuels with renewables led to around 1.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions being avoided last year – the equivalent of removing the entire US transport system.

“The extraordinary surge in solar investment around the world shows how much can be achieved when we commit to growth without harming the environment,” said the head of UN Environment, Erik Solheim.

“By investing in renewables, countries can power new communities, improving the lives and livelihoods of the people who live in them, and at the same time cleaning up the air they breathe.”

Besides revealing the leading lights in renewable energy investment, the report, commissioned by the UN in cooperation with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, also revealed that some major countries were falling behind.

There has been a slight decline in the US, and a considerably strong fall in investment in Europe. The UK has been performing well in clean energy generation, with recent figures showing wind and solar sources had overtaken nuclear as suppliers of electricity.

However, despite these positive trends, 2017 saw a big drop of 65% in British renewables investment.

This is partly due to the timing of large projects being financed – there were several major offshore wind projects funded in 2016 and only one in 2017 – but there has also been a decline in government support.