* Driven mainly by solar technology
* Wind investments fall 17 pct
* Clean energy investment in U.S. outpaces China
LONDON, Jan 12 Global investment in clean
energy hit a record $260 billion in 2011, up 5 percent from the
previous year as investment in solar grew by more than a third
despite shrinking profit margins, some bankruptcies and flagging
share prices, a report said.
The United States last year regained its title as the top
country for clean energy investment, beating out China for the
first time since 2008, said a report by Bloomberg New Energy
Finance (BNEF) on Thursday.
Global clean energy growth was driven mainly by solar, for
which investment grew by 36 percent to $136.6 billion, as a 50
percent drop in prices for photovoltaic panels spurred
Solar investment was double that of wind power, which fell
17 percent to $74.9 billion, the report said.
"Remember that for every equipment company operating at thin
or negative margins, there is an installer who is getting a good
deal," said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of BNEF said in a
He added: "Rumours of the death of clean energy have been
Last year was bleak for some, however. Many solar stocks
retreated by more than 60 percent as the prices for panels that
convert sunlight into electricity fell sharply, erasing profit
margins for manufacturers.
A number of companies have already lost their fight for
survival, such as Germany's Solon SE and Solar
Millennium, which both sank into insolvency in
December. That follows U.S. companies Evergreen Solar,
SpectraWatt and Solyndra.
U.S. company Evergreen Solar Inc filed for bankruptcy on
Monday, its once cutting-edge technology falling victim to
competition from cheaper Chinese rivals and cuts in solar
subsidies in Europe.
Clean energy investments in the United States rose by 33
percent to nearly $56 billion, while those in China edged up 1
percent to $47.4 billion.
The U.S. figure last year was boosted mainly by a federal
loan guarantee programme and a Treasury grant programme, which
have now expired, Liebreich said.
He said the country's remaining support measure for
renewable energy, the Production Tax Credit, could also fall
away at the end of 2012 unless it gets an extension.
"There may be a rush to get projects completed in 2012,
followed by a slump in investment in 2013 if it expires," he
Elsewhere, clean energy investment in Europe rose 3 percent
to around $100 billion, in India jumped 52 percent to $10.3
billion and in Brazil increased 15 percent to $8.2 billion.
Among investment types, utility-scale renewable energy
projects led the way, increasing to $145.6 billion in 2011 from
$138.3 billion the previous year.
Some of the big projects financed in the last quarter of the
year were a 288 megawatt (MW) offshore wind farm off Germany for
$1.3 billion, a 272 MW wind farm in Canada for $756 million and
solar thermal plant in China for $354 million.
The finance of distributed renewable technology, notably
rooftop solar panels, rose by 22 percent to $73.8 billion, with
Italy and Germany playing the biggest role.
Fund-raising in public markets and investment in government
and corporate research and development all fell last year.
Among some of the smaller renewable energy sectors,
investment in biofuels edged up 4.6 percent to $9 billion,
geothermal slipped nearly 12.5 percent to $2.8 billion and small
hydro fell 25 percent to $3 billion.