Clean energy’s global investment share 43% in 2016

12 July 2017

The share of clean-energy spending rose to a record 43% of total energy-related investment in 2016, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) yearly World Energy Investment report shows.

Global energy investment fell by 12% to $1.7-trillion last year, the second consecutive year of decline. However, for the first time, spending on the electricity sector exceeded the combined spending on oil, gas and coal supply.

“Oil and gas represent two-fifths of global energy investment, despite a fall of 38% in capital spending in that sector between 2014 and 2016. As a result, the low-carbon components, including electricity networks, grew their share of total supply-side investment by twelve percentage points to 43% over the same period.”

Global electricity investment was flat at $718-billion, with growing network spending offset, mostly, by fewer coal-power additions. “Investment in coal-fired plants fell sharply, with nearly 20 GW less commissioned, reflecting concerns about local air pollution and the emergence  of  overcapacity  in  some  markets,  notably  China, though  investment  grew in India.  The  investment  decisions  taken  in  2016, totalling  a  mere  40  GW  globally, signal  a more  dramatic  slowdown ahead for coalpower investment once the current wave of construction comes to an end.”

Even investment in renewable-based power capacity, the largest area of electricity spending, fell 3% to $297-billion. Renewable-energy investment was also 3% lower compared with five years ago, but the IEA said the plants would generate 35% more power, owing to cost declines and technology improvements in solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind.

The report also found that carbon emissions stagnated in 2016 for the third year. However, it said investment in clean electricity generation was not keeping pace with demand growth.

Energy-efficiency investment, meanwhile, rose 9% to $231-billion with China emerging as the fastest-growing region for such investments, accounting for 27% of the total last year.

The IEA says that, at this rate, China could soon eclipse Europe as the largest spender on energy efficiency. More than half of the global investment in energy efficiency went to buildings, including efficient appliances, which account for a third of the world’s total energy demand.

China was also the world’s largest energy investor overall in 2016, notwithstanding a 25% decline in coal-fired powerinvestment. The IEA says clean electricity generation and networks, as well as energy efficiency investment, are increasingly driving the country’s investment.

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