5 September 2019: Global investment in new renewable energy capacity is set to reach USD 2.6 trillion by the end of 2019, to close out a record-breaking decade in renewable energy investment, according to report on renewable energy investment trends published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Solar power alone is estimated to be responsible for half of the investments.

The ‘Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2019’ report states that this investment will have quadrupled renewable energy capacity (excluding large hydro) from 414 gigawatt (GW) at the end of 2009 to just over 1,650 GW at the end of 2019, with more GW of solar power capacity installed than other generation technologies, followed by coal, wind and gas.

Speaking about the report and warning against complacency, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said “the global switch to renewables” must be accelerated to meet international climate and development goals, warning that global power sector emissions have risen by at least 10% over 2009-2019.

The cost competitiveness of renewables has also increased, with the levelized cost of electricity (which enables a consistent comparison of different electricity generation methods) down 81% for solar photovoltaics and down 46% for wind since 2009. Thus, in addition to being low-carbon and relatively quick to build, wind or solar today often represent the cheapest options for electricity generation in many countries.

The global switch to renewables must be accelerated to meet international climate and development goals.

The report also looks at yearly figures, with investment in renewable energy capacity hitting USD 272.9 billion in 2018, about triple the investment in coal and gas-fired generation capacity combined, despite decreases in the capital cost of solar and wind projects, and despite a policy change that slowed investment in China in the second half of 2019.

In 2018, 29 countries each invested more than USD 1 billion in renewable energy capacity, up from 25 in 2017 and 21 in 2016. Spain, Viet Nam, Ukraine and South Africa were among the countries investing more than USD 1 billion with more than five-fold increases in 2018, while the Netherlands, Sweden, Morocco, the Russian Federation and Taiwan increased their investments by 100% or more.

Regarding money going into technology and specialist companies, government and corporate research and development was up 10% in 2018 to USD 13.1 billion, equity raised by renewable energy companies on public markets increased by 6% to USD 6 billion, and venture capital and private equity investment was up 35% at USD 2 billion.

According to the report, China has been the biggest investor in renewable energy capacity committing USD 758 billion between 2010 and the first half of 2019, with the US second at USD 356 billion and Japan third at USD 202 billion. Europe as a whole invested USD 698 billion, with Germany contributing the most at USD 179 billion, followed by the UK at USD 122 billion.

The ‘Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment’ report, released annually since 2007, was commissioned by UNEP in cooperation with the Frankfurt School-UNEP Centre for Climate and Sustainable Energy Finance, and produced in collaboration with Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). [Publication: Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2019] [UNEP News Story]