Europe shows modest growth in renewables

April 16, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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BRUSSELS, April 16 (UPI) -- Investments in Europe's clean energy sector grew a modest 4 percent in 2011 but it remained the globe's top destination for such dollars, a new report says.

An analysis released late last week in Washington by the Pew Charitable Trusts indicated that, despite less-than-stellar growth, Europe raked in $99.3 billion in clean energy investments last year.

Europe's performance was a key factor in a worldwide cleantech investment total of $263 billion -- a 6.5 percent global increase.

The report said that the United States reclaimed the top spot in cleantech investments from China, which had had the lead since 2009.

Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and India were also among the nations that most successfully attracted private investments last year.

Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew's clean energy program, said clean energy investment -- excluding research and development -- has grown by 600 percent since 2004, thanks to "effective national policies that create market certainty."

"This increase was due in part to the number of countries that have implemented effective national policies to support the clean energy market," she said.

The Pew study found "significant" investment growth in Italy, Britain and Spain, which it said helped to offset declines in other EU member states.

The lion's share of the investments in Germany and Italy were due to the popularity of small, distributed solar panel installations. They made up more than 50 percent of worldwide solar capacity additions and constituted 38 percent of all solar technology investments in the Group of 20 countries.

The report said the jump in solar panel installations was thanks in part to falling prices -- fully 75 lower than in 2009. Those new, low prices made up for cutbacks in the levels of feed-in tariffs by governments around the world.

The solar boom in Germany was reflected by its third-place ranking among the G-20 with $30.6 billion in investments and 7.4 gigawatts of solar power installed.

Italy, meanwhile, received $28 billion in clean energy financing -- a jump of 38.4 percent from 2010 -- which created nearly 8 gigawatts of solar generating capacity. That mark led the world in terms of investment levels relative to the size of its economy, the Pew report said.

Meanwhile, EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said last week developing renewable energy sources in both the industrialized and developing worlds are essential to fighting global poverty.

Piebalgs, speaking in Brussels, made the comments as the EU prepared for Monday's conference on sustainable energy, which will include the participation of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the EUobserver reported.

"Investing in access to clean energy in the poorest countries will help achieve the double goal of sustainable and inclusive growth and mitigating climate change," he said.

The EU contends more renewable energy generation in poor countries will help achieve the United Nations' goal of extending electricity to all people by 2030.

The commission has laid out $410 million in each of the last seven years to spur the energy sector in developing countries, the publication noted.

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