June 5, 2009 / 11:41 AM / 10 years ago

New clean energy 2009 investment seen sharply down

LONDON (Reuters) - New investment in clean energy will total $95 to $115 billion in 2009, representing a drop of 26-39 percent from last year’s total of $155 billion, data published by research group New Energy Finance showed on Friday.

A general view shows the Whitelee wind farm near Eaglesham, East Renfrewshire, in Scotland May 20, 2009. REUTERS/David Moir

The clean energy sector including wind and solar power enjoyed more than fourthfold growth in investment since 2004 but has suffered a sharp fall as a result of the financial crisis.

“It is disappointing that 2009 will look likely to show such a significant fall in new investment in clean energy. However, the good news is that it does look as though the worst is past,” Michael Liebreich, chairman and chief executive of New Energy Finance said in a statement.

Investment in the second quarter of the year has already surpassed the first quarter by a third, the group said.

But the first quarter was “disastrous” as investment shrank by 44 percent compared to the fourth quarter and 53 percent from the corresponding period last year.

On the plus side, the first quarter was probably the lowest point for clean energy investment in the economic downturn.

“The biggest single obstacle facing the sector this year - the sudden shortage of debt finance for wind farm, solar parks and other clean energy projects caused by the banking crisis - may also be past its worst,” the group said in a report.

Bankers are more optimistic about a gradual improvement in the availability of project debt during the rest of this year, the group said.

In the second quarter there have been some signs of recovery. Investment in clean energy companies through the public markets has rallied sharply, with over $2 billion of completed secondary issues by companies such as SunPower, Q-Cells, Evergreen Solar and SunTech Power.

Added to that, the arrival of “green stimulus funds” from governments should help the sector. Since last September, major economies have announced a total of $184.9 billion of stimulus funds aimed at clean energy or energy efficiency.

New Energy Finance estimates that more than two thirds of this money will be spent in 2010 and 2011, with 15 percent less, or around $28 billion, being spent this year.

“The bulk of (the money) is likely to arrive next year and thereafter, by which time the clean energy sector may be well on the way to recovery under its own steam,” Liebreich said.

Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Peter Blackburn

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