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Overall clean energy investment falls in 2012

15th Jan 2013

In case we Australians were wondering if we were alone in weathering the effects of falling solar feed-in tariffs and general regulatory uncertainty surrounding growth in the renewable energy industry - we can rest assured, we aren't.

But is it a burden shared a burden halved? Time will tell.

What is certain is that as the renewable energy sector grows, there will surely be speed bumps along the way.

New research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has revealed that investment in clean energy declined by 11 per cent in 2012.

Overall global investment totalled US$268.7 billion last year, down from US$302.3 billion in 2011.

Bloomberg says clean energy investment was impacted by policy changes and uncertainty caused by regulations in major markets like the US, India, Spain and Italy.

Despite this, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance Michael Liebreich said there was a silver lining to be found.

He said that with the opposition the clean energy had faced last year, it was amazing the decline wasn't bigger.

"We warned at the start of last year that investment in 2012 was likely to fall below 2011 levels, but rumours of the death of clean energy investment have been greatly exaggerated," said Mr Liebreich.

The figures are slightly deceiving too. As the price of implementing solar and wind technology falls worldwide, installation levels can actually increase concurrently with a decline in total investment.

Bloomberg revealed that the biggest outlay on clean energy in 2012 was made by China, with US$67.7 billion spent. This was up by 20 per cent on 2011, due in large part to growth in the solar sector.

The big boys weren't the only ones getting a shout out. Mr Liebreich says investment in the clean sector is broadening quickly into newer markets.

Established ones like Europe, the US and China are rapidly being joined by Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia-Oceania.

He pointed to Australia and other countries such as Brazil and South Korea who have seen at least one project of more than US$250 million financed during the year.

Australia's charge towards a clean energy future received a boost late last year when the Climate Change Authority (CCA) recommended retaining the large-scale Renewable Energy Target of 41,000 GWh by 2020.

The CCA said that changing the target would only risk denting investor confidence and uncertainty about climate change policy.

Will the government follow through with all of their recommendations? Time will tell.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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