Green energy investment seeing strong rise, says WEF

Wind farm
Image caption Wind power can compete with fossil fuel rivals without government subsidies, WEF says

Global investment in clean energy projects saw a big rise last year and is poised for further strong growth, a report suggests.

Investment topped $243bn (£152bn) in 2010, a rise of 30% on the $186bn spent a year earlier, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said.

It added that more clean energy sources could now compete with fossil fuels.

Higher energy prices were also likely to increase demand for clean energy, WEF said.

China boom

According to the WEF figures, clean energy investment stagnated in 2009, with a 4% rise from a year earlier.

The rebound in 2010 was spread evenly across the three regions looked at by the forum and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Investment in Europe, the Middle East and Africa rose by $19bn to $94.4bn, while the Americas saw a jump of $17bn to $65.8bn. In Asia and Oceania, investment rose by $20bn to $82.8bn.

The report said $51.1bn was invested in clean energy projects in China alone, a rise of 30% on 2009 levels.

China has also been investing heavily outside the clean energy sector, including in coal-fired power stations, in order to meet its rapidly growing demand for power.

Many other countries have also increased their spending on fossil fuel energy projects since the downturn.

The WEF said investment in small-scale clean energy projects took off last year, with global investment almost doubling to $59.6bn. In Germany, for example, residential and commercial rooftop solar capacity grew by a record amount.

Other countries with feed-in tariffs, such as the Czech Republic, Italy and the UK, also saw rapid growth.

Solar power parity

However, high government debt levels following the global downturn meant that some countries have been cutting back on support for clean energy, the report found.

As a result, reductions in feed-in tariffs were likely this year, it said. The WEF also highlighted the continuing lack of a federal climate or energy bill as an obstacle to clean energy in the US.

"But none of these has been sufficient to derail the sector's progress," it concluded.

Looking ahead, the report said the sector appeared to be poised for "further strong growth", supported by the fact that an increasing number of clean energy sources could now compete with traditional fossil fuel power generation without government subsidies.

Clean energy projects have generally relied on subsidies as they have not yet reached the critical mass needed to become economically viable as alternatives to traditional power sources.

"Today, geothermal, biomass and wind projects can compete with and surpass their fossil-based rivals in increasingly significant energy markets," the report said.

Solar power generation, it added, had already reached parity with retail electricity prices in some parts of the world, "and will undoubtedly to so elsewhere soon".

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