UK clean energy investment springs back – after sluggish 2010

Investment in the UK's clean energy sector made a strong comeback last year - growing by 35% after struggling in 2010 - with offshore wind "poised" to create significant future investments.

That is the conclusion of a new report ‘Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race?’ by the Pew charitable trust, which revealed that investment in 2011 reached £5.89bn ($9.4bn) – up from £4.36bn ($7bn) in 2010 when it slipped from third place to thirtieth as investment fell.

However, thanks to a spurt in investment the UK has now risen back up the list to seventh place in a global ranking for clean energy investment among G20 countries – although it still lags behind the US, China, India, Germany and Italy.

Growth in the UK’s investment is thought to have been largely driven largely by a 10-fold increase in solar energy investments, which rose to £3.1bn ($4.8bn) and helped finance the installation of more than 300MW of power in 2011.

In addition, offshore wind turbine development has been credited with helping to generate £1.44bn ($2.3bn) worth of investment and 900MW of capacity in the wind sector.

According to Pew clean energy program director Phyllis Cuttino, although “solar investment saw the most significant growth in the UK, offshore wind is poised for significant future investments and capacity additions”.

She continued: “In part, investment growth in the United Kingdom can be attributed to investors initiating new projects before policy incentives are curtailed. To maintain growth, the UK must provide consistent, long-term market signals that provide certainty to investors.”

Concerns have been raised however, that cuts and delays to schemes, such as the feed-in tariff (FITs) and renewable heat projects could hamper the attractiveness of the UK for investors.

Last year, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) published research warning that “uncertainty” the UK’s renewable sector is “crippling” investment by businesses.

Global investment in the clean energy sector increased by 6.5% to reach $263bn in 2011, with the US reclaiming the top spot from China by attracting $48bn in investment – with its solar sector alone attracting $11.3bn.

However, the report suggests that with $45.5bn in private investments, China is likely to remain a “hub of clean energy activity” as it continues to dominated wind energy investment and deployment, as well as wind and solar manufacturing.

Germany scooped third place at $30.6bn – although investment was down 5% on its 2010 levels of $32.1bn as a result of reduction in FITs subsidy. This helped Italy close the gap, with investment rising by 38% to $28bn – up from $20.2bn the year before.

Carys Matthews

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