After breaking records in 2011, new financial investment in clean energy in the first quarter of 2012 was the weakest since the depths of the financial crisis in the first quarter of 2009 (Q1 2009), according to recently released figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
According to BNEF's report, clean energy investment fell sharply in the first quarter of this year. New financial investment was down 28% from Q4 2011 to just $27 billion – 22% lower than in the first quarter of last year.
New financial investment includes venture capital, private equity, public markets and asset finance, but excludes small-scale projects and corporate and government research and development, on which BNEF only reports annually.
The first-quarter numbers for new financial investment included $24.2 billion in asset finance of utility-scale renewable energy projects, such as wind farms and solar parks, plus $1.9 billion of venture capital and private equity investment in specialist clean energy companies. Just $601 million was raised on the public markets by quoted companies during the period, BNEF notes.
"The weak Q1 2012 number reflects the destabilizing uncertainty over future clean energy support in both the European Union – driven by the financial crisis – and the U.S. – driven by the expiry of stimulus programs and the electoral cycle," explains Michael Liebreich, CEO of BNEF. "There is no sign of a rapid turnaround in either of these regions in the next 12 months."
In the first quarter, asset finance totaled $24.2 billion – down 30% from the fourth quarter of 2011 and down 13% from the first quarter of 2011. However, there continued to be some large renewable energy projects financed – including the 396 MW Marena Wind Portfolio in Mexico, for $961 million; the 100 MW KVK Chinnu solar thermal plant in India, for approximately $400 million; and the 201 MW Post Rock Wind farm in Kansas, for an estimated $376 million.
The largest projects financed in Europe in the first quarter were the 150 MW Monsson Pantelina wind farm in Romania, at $317 million, and the 60.4 MW SunEdison Karadzhalovo solar PV plant in Bulgaria, for $248 million.
Venture capital and private equity investment held up well, at $1.9 billion – just 2% below the numbers from the fourth quarter of last year and 6% higher than the first quarter of 2011.
Public market investment in clean energy totaled $601 million, down 12% from the fourth quarter and down 87% from the first quarter of 2011 – a plunge that was not surprising, given the poor performance of sector shares in the last year, BNEF says.