- Global spending on clean energy totaled $332.1 billion in 2018, according to a new analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), with strong offshore wind investment reflecting growing interest in the eastern United States and other areas.
- Overall, investment fell 8% from 2017 — though some of the change was due to declining capital costs in the solar sector, which caused commitments to decline 24% to $130.8 billion "in dollar terms," despite setting new capacity records. However, offshore wind began to show its promise, attracting $25.7 billion in investment, up 14% from 2017.
- BNEF last year predicted the world is on track for global electricity supply to be mostly fueled by carbon-free sources by 2050, though it will require $11.5 trillion in global investment.
Reaching 50% clean energy will require investment in all available resources, but BNEF's annual spending estimates are a good snapshot of the industry's focus in a given year. Offshore wind saw the largest increase in global investment, reflecting growing interest in the United States and other parts of the world where the resource is not already mature.
"The balance of activity in offshore is tilting," David Hostert, head of wind analysis at BNEF, said in a statement. "Countries such as the U.K. and Germany pioneered this industry and will remain important, but China is taking over as the biggest market and new locations such as Taiwan and the U.S. East Coast are seeing strong interest from developers.”
The United States has only one operating offshore wind farm, Deepwater Wind's 30 MW Block Island facility in Rhode Island state waters. But a first wave of projects is beginning to take shape, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has more than a dozen active wind leases in federal waters for nearly two million acres. In December, an Interior Department offshore wind lease auction for three blocks of acreage off the coast of Massachusetts brought in a record $405.1 million.
Global investment in onshore wind reached $100.8 billion last year, BNEF said, up 2%.
But the "most striking shifts" were in the solar sector, according to BNEF, which said its global benchmark for the cost of installing a megawatt of solar capacity fell 12% last year, "as manufacturers slashed selling prices in the face of a glut of PV modules on the world market."
Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at BNEF, called 2018 "a difficult year for many solar manufacturers," as well as for developers in China. But she also said the firm estimates that global PV installations increased from 99 GW in 2017 to approximately 109 GW in 2018, "as other countries took advantage of the technology's fiercely improved competitiveness.”