Fossil fuel prices, rising temperatures, the support of world governments and energy security concerns drove a record-setting year of renewable energy investment in 2007, according to a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

Achim Steiner, head of UNEP and UN under-secretary general, said: “Just as thousands were drawn to California and the Klondike in the late 1800s, the green energy gold rush is attracting legions of modern day prospectors in all parts of the globe.

“With world temperatures and fossil fuel prices climbing higher, it is increasingly obvious to the public and investors alike that the transition to a low-carbon society is both a global imperative and an inevitability.

“This is attracting an enormous inflow of capital, talent and technology.

“What is unfolding is nothing less than a fundamental transformation of the world’s energy infrastructure.”

More than US $148bn of new money was ploughed into the global sustainable energy sector last year – up 60% from 2006.

The startling picture was unveiled in Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment, a report by UK-based firm New Energy Finance for UNEP’s Sustainable Energy Finance Initiative.

Wind energy drew the most investment last year with US $50.2bn but solar power grew most quickly attracting some US $28.6bn.

The report said the sector is also bouncing back in the second quarter of 2008 after being “subdued” by the credit crunch.

The sustainable energy sector has to “grow strongly” to meet targets for greenhouse gas reduction, renewable and efficiency increases, but there is huge scope for growth, the report adds.

Total 2007 sustainable energy transaction volume was US $204.9bn and is predicted to reach more than US $600bn a year from 2020.

Michael Liebreich, report co-author and chief executive officer of New Energy Finance, which provides information to investors in renewable energy, described 2007 as a “a banner year for the clean energy industry”.

Europe saw most of the new money, followed by America, but China, India and Brazil’s share together has almost doubled since 2004.

Africa, however, continues to lag behind other regions in the investment stakes.

David Gibbs

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