The amount companies spent on green energy in the UK rose during the years of the coalition government (2010-2015) but has now fallen for two years in a row under the Conservatives, according to analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

While investment in wind, solar and other renewable sources slumped by 56% to $10.3bn (£7.5bn) in the UK, worldwide spending climbed 3% to $333.5bn (£242.4bn), the second-highest level on record.

Alan Whitehead, shadow energy minister, said: “The government’s green rhetoric is nothing more than empty promises. Their ideologically-driven policy lurches away from clean solar power and onshore wind has spooked investors.

“Whilst saying they have ambitions to be a green government their actions point in the opposite direction with renewables support slashed at the same time that fracking has been given the go ahead.”

Caroline Lucas, Green party co-leader, said the UK figures were damning.

China led the global charge, with investment jumping by nearly a quarter to $132.6bn, a new high. The amount of solar installed in China increased by more than three-quarters on the year before as costs fell.

Worldwide, solar took the lion’s share of spending on renewables, at $160.8bn, followed by windfarms.

Jon Moore, chief executive of BNEF, said: “The 2017 total is all the more remarkable when you consider that capital costs for the leading technology – solar – continue to fall sharply.”

Investment increased by 1% to $56.9bn in the US, the second-biggest market for clean technologies, despite the Trump administration’s efforts to favour coal and nuclear power.

However, spending also fell in Germany, Japan, India, Norway, Turkey and Taiwan. The fall of 56% in the UK was the steepest decline, far out-stripping the decrease of 26% for Europe as a whole.

Around half of the UK spend, $4.8bn, was a final investment decision by Ørsted of Denmark on a single huge offshore windfarm, the Hornsea 2 project off the Yorkshire coast.

Another big green energy firm, npower’s parent company, Innogy, said the UK was still an attractive place to invest, but there had been a stop-start approach to support from government.

Paul Cowling, director of wind energy offshore at Innogy SE, said: “It’s just very lumpy. You have this very sort of cyclic type of approach that government have had in the past.”

The German firm is planning to spend €3.5bn (£3.1bn) on renewables over the next three years, with the UK billed as the company’s second-biggest market.

Cowling confirmed that the company would be competing for a slice of the £557m pot of government subsidies for offshore windfarms that will be auctioned next year.

BNEF said that while the promise of future subsidies showed the government was behind the sector, it agreed with Innogy on the need for greater clarity on what ministers want over the next decade.

“What’s needed when we hear from investors and developers is more transparency from the government. When you compare the Netherlands and Germany there’s more transparency up to 2030 on [wind power] capacity through competitive auctions,” said Keegan Kruger, wind analyst at BNEF.

Kruger added that he expected the trend in UK investment to continue downwards until around 2020, when it would likely stabilise because of new investments in offshore windfarms.

As well as solar parks and windfarms, the BNEF analysis counts clean technology investments as including smart grids, energy efficiency and battery storage projects. It also includes biomass, waste-to-energy schemes, marine energy and small hydro projects but excludes large dams.

A government spokesperson said: “The UK has reduced emissions on a per person basis faster than any other G7 nation and the government is committed to a low carbon future for the UK with clean growth at the heart of our industrial strategy.”

Adam Vaughan

This article first appeared on the Guardian

edie is part of the Guardian Environment Network

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