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IEA frets over global spending on energy

Even with China, the second-largest economy in the world, absorbing much of the world's investments, the IEA said renewable support declined by about 7 percent.

By Daniel J. Graeber
IEA frets over global spending on energy
The International Energy Agency said it's concerned about a decline in investments in renewable energy. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

July 17 (UPI) -- China is the largest destination for energy sector investments, but there are concerning trends of a global slowdown, the International Energy Agency said.

The IEA in its world energy investment report found total global energy investments declined 2 percent from 2016 to reach $1.8 trillion last year. Of that, most went toward the electricity sector and oil and gas supply.

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The IEA said there were signs of a continued slowdown. Financial support for renewable energy, which accounted for about 60 percent of the total spending for power generation, declined 7 percent last year.

"Such a decline in global investment for renewables and energy efficiency combined is worrying," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement. "This could threaten the expansion of clean energy needed to meet energy security, climate and clean-air goals."

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China, the second-largest economy in the world behind the United States, saw record spending in solar power, accounting for about 45 percent of the total. For all energy investments, China took in about 20 percent of the world total.

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in late June outlined goals for air quality and the broader environment from 2020. Emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, both greenhouse gases, are to decline by 15 percent from 2015 levels under the plan.

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For the solar panel industry, China has about 60 percent of the payrolls, representing about 2.2 million employees. China also accounts for 44 percent of the payrolls in the wind energy industry. China's so-called Blue Sky initiative calls for the eventual retirement of smaller coal-fired power plants.

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For offshore wind, it was the European market that saw record deployments last year, with nearly 4 gigawatts of wind power commissioned. One gigawatt represents the equivalent of 500 utility-scale wind turbines.

The IEA, however, found that onshore wind investments declined 15 percent, though much of that was attributed to lower costs.

For fossil fuels, investment stabilized at $790 billion last year as a decline in spending in coal and liquefied natural gas was offset by an increase in oil and gas exploration and production activity, known as the upstream sector.

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"Upstream investment rose by 4 percent to $450 billion in 2017 and is set to rise by 5 percent to $472 billion in 2018, driven by the U.S. shale sector, which is expected to grow by around 20 percent," the IEA's report read.

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