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Global investment in clean energy was $53.1 billion in the second quarter of this year (Q2) - up 22% from the first quarter, finds a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The report attributes the quarterly rebound to an upturn in the financing of wind and solar projects and a 170% surge in equity funding for specialist companies on public markets.

Leading the Q2 increase were the U.S., China and South Africa. The report says the U.S. saw investment jump 155% compared to a weak first quarter and reached $9.5 billion, China rose 63% to $13.8 billion and South Africa was up from almost nothing in Q1 to $2.8 billion.

However, the report notes that Europe, for many years the mainstay of clean energy activity worldwide, saw investment fall 44% compared to Q1, reaching just $9.5 billion.

BNEF says this represents the continent’s lowest quarter total for more than six years, and the downturn in Europe helped ensure that global investment in clean energy in Q2 ended up 16% below the figure for the second quarter of last year.

“These figures are a mixture of sweet and sour,” comments Michael Liebreich, chief executive of BNEF. “On the sour side, 2013 globally is still running below 2012, which was itself down on the 2011 investment record. And European investment is clearly being hit by cuts in support for renewable energy and by policy uncertainty, notably ahead of the German election in September.

“On the sweet side, the U.S. is back in business following the hiatus that resulted from fears about the possible expiry of the production tax fredit for wind at the end of 2012,” Liebreich continues. “And the 50 percent rally in clean energy share prices since their lows last summer, with rises of 200 percent or more for Tesla Motors and a clutch of major wind and solar manufacturers, is rekindling - at least for the moment - the appetite of stock market investors for equity raisings.”

Financing of utility-scale projects such as solar parks and wind farms represented the biggest category of investment between April and June, BNEF says. This was $31.9 billion in Q2, up 39% on the first quarter but down 21% year-over-year. Among the projects financed were MidAmerican Renewables’ 681 MW Solar Star photovoltaic project in California, at $2.5 billion; and EDF’s 299 MW Blackspring Ridge wind farm phase one in Alberta, Canada, at $588 million.

Investment in small-scale PV projects of less than 1 MW continued to be another busy area of activity - accounting for $17 billion of outlays in the second quarter, in line with Q1, but down 15% year-over-year, largely because of reductions in the cost of PV panels, BNEF reports.

In addition, for the first time, BNEF is extending its annual coverage for investment in clean energy to include asset finance of energy smart technologies. This amounted to $14.2 billion in 2012, taking the research company’s overall figure for investment in clean energy last year to $281.1 billion, compared to 2011’s record $317.2 billion.

Nicole Aspinall, lead analyst on BNEF’s statistics team, says, “We have revised our methodology for clean energy investment to include digital energy and energy storage infrastructure projects, which are increasingly seen as integral to the future. These include storage technologies such as batteries, flywheels and compressed air energy storage, and smart grid applications such as smart metering and distribution automation.”


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