2006 a boom year for investment in renewable energy

Renewable energy is becoming an increasingly popular commodity to invest in, according to a new trend analysis from UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Factors such as concerns over climate, high oil prices and government help are listed as some of the top reasons driving capital into renewable energy from $80 billion in 2005 to the record $100 billion in 2006.

Most popularly, investment money is being poured into renewable energy sources

like wind, solar power and biofuels, UNEP said. About a fifth of 2006 investment was in the developing world.

“One of the new and fundamental messages of this report is that renewable energies are no longer subject to the vagaries of rising and falling oil prices,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said.

“They are becoming generating systems of choice for increasing numbers of power companies, communities and countries irrespective of the costs of fossil fuels.

“The other key message is that this is no longer an industry solely dominated by developed country industries. Close to 10 per cent of investments are in China with around a fifth in total in the developing world.

“We will need many sustained steps towards the de-carbonizing of the global economy. It is clear that in respect to renewables those steps are getting underway.”

Today renewable energy accounts for only 2% of the electricity around the world, however, the report said. Renewable energy makes up 18% of the world’s investment in generating power.

Also spurring the sector’s growth has been the persistently high price of oil – averaging more than $60 a barrel in 2006 (although one report conclusion is that the sector is becoming more independent of the price of oil).

“Growing consumer awareness of renewable energy and energy efficiency – and their longer term potential for cheaper energy, and not just greener energy – has become another fundamental driver,” it says.

“Most importantly governments and politicians are introducing legislation and support mechanisms to enable the sector’s development.”

The report forecasts even higher rates of investment in the coming year.

Dana Gornitzki

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie