Emerging from the global economic recession, investments in renewable energy technologies rose in 2011, with total new investments in renewable power and fuels (excluding large hydropower and solar hot water) reaching $257 billion, up from $220 billion in 2010.
In a year marked by falling costs for renewable energy technologies, net investment in renewable power capacity was $40 billion greater than investment in fossil fuel capacity, according to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute's Climate and Energy program.
Total renewable energy investments in industrial countries in 2011 accounted for 65% of global investment, increasing 21% to $168 billion overall. In contrast, the 35% of global new investment that went to developing countries increased 10%, to $89 billion. Of that sum, China, India, and Brazil accounted for $71 billion in total investment. Investment in India grew 62%----the highest growth rate for any single country over 2010 totals.
In 2011, "financial new investment" in renewable energy installations (a category that excludes small-scale projects and R&D) in industrial countries outpaced investments in the developing world, but in 2010 investments in this category in developing countries had surpassed those in industrial countries for the first time.
Solar power led all renewable investments with $147.4 billion invested in solar compared with $83.8 billion for wind projects and $10.6 billion for biomass and waste-to-energy technology.
Biofuels attracted the fourth highest total investment in 2011 at $6.8 billion, followed by $5.8 billion for small hydro and $2.9 billion for geothermal installations. Marine energy technologies received only $200 million, as they have not yet been commercially deployed.
China attracted $52.2 billion in new investments in 2011, the largest sum of any country. In terms of the pace of growth, however, the United States scored an impressive 57% growth in investment over 2010 levels, outpacing all countries except India's 62%. Overall, the United States ranks second in total national renewable energy investment at $50.8 billion, followed by Germany at $31 billion.
The International Energy Agency projects that 90% of the growth in global energy demand during the next 25 years will come from developing countries. Investments in renewable energy already constitute the major part of "climate finance" funds designed to help developing countries meet development challenges.
Evan Musolino, Climate and Energy Research Associate and report co-author says renewable energy technologies can enhance access to reliable, affordable, and clean modern energy services.
"[Renewable technologies] are particularly well suited for remote rural populations, and in many instances they can provide the lowest-cost option for energy access. For these potentials to be met, new investment in the sector is essential," he says.