The latest survey of global renewable-energy investment by the Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-profit organisation, paints a relatively sorry picture. Last year, funds devoted to solar plants, wind farms and the like in G-20 industrialised countries fell by 11%. Subsidy cuts in places like Spain and Germany contributed to the decline in investment in wind and solar projects (by 15% and 13%, respectively). Biofuels saw the most dramatic decline, attracting 46% less investment than in 2011 (see our article on the troubles of US maize-ethanol makers).
Renewables have been weaned on government-provided goodies. But clean-tech firms are speeding towards the day when they must flourish on their own—or run out of luck, like China’s once-supreme solar firm, Suntech. China nonetheless offers clean-tech investors more than a splash of consolation. Despite the lull in investment, global renewable-energy capacity still managed to grow by a record 88 gigawatts (GW) in 2012—thanks more than anything to Beijing’s supportive policies. China both topped the 2012 investment charts and added a world-beating 23GW in renewable capacity during the year. Its firms also brighten the global scene by making cheap clean-tech gear, helping investors’ scarcer resources spread further.
China’s methods inspire gripes about unfair competition and punitive trade tariffs. But remove China from the global renewables picture and the industry scene starts to look like a stodgy old European oil painting rather than an upbeat piece of Chinese modern art.
The EIU's Energy Briefing provides forecasts to 2020 and daily news analysis for the world's most important energy markets, along with a database developed in association with the International Energy Agency.