There is a lot of money pouring into clean energy projects even as the prices of oil and gas fall. Clean energy investment rose 25% in the U.S. in the Third Quarter; total investment surged to $13.4-Billion. That puts the U.S. at #2, second only to China where investment in clean energy projects came in at $26.7-Billion. These latest numbers are the work of Bloomberg New Energy Finance in a report published this month.
For those doubting the impact of these investments The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission just released figures showing that renewable energy investment accounts for more than 60% of new electricity generation capacity installed in the first nine months of the year. Wind is the number one new source, beating new natural gas capacity. Solar was third, accounting for nearly 16% of all new capacity followed by biomass, geothermal steam, and hydropower.
What the numbers from FERC show us is that renewable energy sources now account for 17.4% of total generation capacity
Part of the reason for the investments are purely competitive; wind already competes on a price basis with fossil fuels in parts of the world, and solar is approaching a competitive price point. Exactly how this is happening is a little sleight of hand, in that technological advancements in clean energy are pushing down costs of generation while costs for coal-fired plants are rising. But there is no trickery in what is happening in Texas. I spoke with BNEF analyst Luke Mills who told me that Texas enjoys the lowest wind costs in the world and the second cheapest solar cost in the U.S.
As clean energy makes dramatic strides, things are so dire in the coal industry these days that the president of Appalachian Power was recently quoted as saying it is no longer economically feasible to build new coal-fired power plants. Indeed, this past summer natural gas overtook coal as the number one fuel source for electricity generation according to the Energy Information Administration.
Investments are not all about competitive prices. Policy is paramount. According to BNEF analyst Mills, investment in Europe has fallen due to a lack of government support and poor economic conditions. In contrast, investment in China and the other Asian Pacific countries like India have continued to experience aggressive growth due to increased government support as they aim at hitting carbon emission targets while their economies are rapidly growing creating huge demand for more power. Mills’s bottom line is simple, “Generally, in order to meet competitive equity return rates, renewables still are dependent on subsidies to attract the sort of investment levels we see today,”
And here is another bottom line, global investment in renewable energy totaled $70-Billion in the third quarter. That is down 1% from the same time period last year but considering the 48% fall off in investment in Europe it’s a number that hides more than it shows.
This article was written by Bill Tucker from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.