Investment in clean energy worldwide rose nearly 10% in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period a year earlier, reaching $47.7 billion, according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
The report notes that the first quarter is often the weakest of the year for investment in clean energy, reflecting the fact that developers tend to rush to finance projects in the closing months of each year to take advantage of expiring subsidies, as well as the effect of colder weather in the Northern Hemisphere on project progress. So, although global investment in Q1'14 was down from the $58.1 billion seen in the fourth quarter of last year, BNEF says the more useful comparison is with the first quarter of 2013's $43.6 billion.
Notably, BNEF recently reported that full-year 2013 global investment in clean energy fell 11% to $254 billion, the lowest annual figure since 2009.
"It is too early to say definitively that 2013 was the low point for clean energy investment worldwide and that 2014 will show a rebound, but the first-quarter numbers are encouraging," comments Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board for BNEF.
Breaking the figures down by region, the report says Asia and Oceania, excluding China and India, saw $12.1 billion of investment in Q1'14, up 26% compared to the same quarter of 2013, helped by the solar boom in Japan. The U.S. enjoyed a 95% gain in Q1 compared to a year earlier, although investment – at $7.9 billion – was only half the bumper figure for Q4 last year, when a number of large wind projects were financed.
BNEF says Europe's investment was down 30% compared to Q1'13, at $11.1 billion, while China's was up 18% at $9.9 billion. The biggest percentage gain on the year came in Brazil, where investment rebounded to $1.3 billion in Q1 this year, up 211%. The Americas, excluding the U.S. and Brazil, saw an 11% drop in investment compared to the same quarter last year, with the latest figure at $2.1 billion. The Middle East and Africa managed an 82% increase to $2.4 billion.
Looking at the different types of investment, the report says the dominant driver of the rise in investment was spending on small-scale projects of less than 1 MW, including rooftop solar. This increased 42% compared to the first quarter of 2013, reaching $21.2 billion.
Also rising strongly year-on-year was public markets investment in specialist clean energy companies, with a 195% gain to $3.6 billion. The report says the biggest capital raisings of the quarter were a $2 billion convertible issue by U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors, followed by a $603 million secondary share issue by Danish turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems.
Overall investment in solar was up 23% at $27.5 billion, while that in wind fell 16% to $13.9 billion. Investment in energy-smart technologies, such as smart grid, efficiency, power storage and electric vehicles, powered up 243% year-on-year to $3.1 billion in Q1, while investment in biofuels fell 28% to $664 million. Investment in geothermal heated up from virtually nothing in Q1'13 to $1.8 billion in the first quarter of this year, the report adds.