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Clean Energy Investment Down, Rooftop Solar a Bright Spot

solar panelsGlobal clean energy investment is headed for its second annual fall in a row, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The research company found that investment in clean energy — including renewables, smart grid, efficiency, energy storage and electric vehicles — totaled $45.9 billion in Q3 2013, down 14 percent on the second quarter of this year and down 20 percent from the same period last year. Bloomberg said this makes it almost certain that investment for the year will be below the $281 billion reached in 2012, which was itself down 11 percent from 2011.

Bloomberg blamed cheap gas in the US, policy uncertainty in Europe, a plateauing of wind and solar investment in China and “general weakening of political will” – at least in part because governments are wrapped up in short-term domestic issues.

This conclusion won’t raise many eyebrows in the US, where the government shutdown is into its third week and where a pressing battle on the debt ceiling has pushed energy and environmental issues further to the back burner. As the stalemate drags on, the ability of either legislators or regulators to advance the clean energy economy continues to diminish.

There is at least one bright spot in the clean energy investment picture. Bloomberg notes that investment in renewable installations of under 1 MW – mostly solar on residential and business rooftops – stayed level with the previous quarter in Q3, and only fell versus 2012 because of a sharp drop in PV panel prices. The existing economic conditions are sufficient for businesses to keep installing solar, for the time being. But in this constantly shifting market, regulators can’t take their eye off the ball for long.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

Picture: DOE

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