Led by investments in wind farms and solar arrays, clean-energy investment in the United States rose 12% to $64.2 billion in 2018, even as global clean-energy funding declined 8% to $332.1 billion, BloombergNEF said in a new report.
The new record for annual U.S. clean-energy investment surpassed the previous high of $62.3 billion in 2011, and it contrasts with a 32% drop in clean-energy spending in China, to roughly $100 billion. Solar demand in China, the world's leading renewable energy market, cooled in 2018 after the government curtailed incentives, leading to a global glut of solar panels and falling prices.
Despite the downturn in China, global solar photovoltaic installed capacity rose to 109 GW in 2018, from 99 GW in 2017, according to the report, thanks largely to gains in Europe and emerging markets. Declining capital costs, however, drove global solar investments down 24% to $131 billion, while worldwide investments in wind energy rose slightly to $129 billion.
Taking advantage of lower solar prices and demand for offshore wind farms, Europe ratcheted up its clean energy investments 27% in 2018 to $74.5 billion, as progress in Spain, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia helped to offset a 32% decline in Germany, the firm found.
"Once again, the actions of China are playing a major role in the dynamics of the energy transition, helping to drive down solar costs, grow the offshore wind and [electric vehicle] markets and lift venture capital and private equity investment," Jon Moore, CEO of BloombergNEF, said in a news release.
Venture capitalists and private equity investors poured $9.2 billion into clean-tech startups in 2018, up 127% from 2017, the highest volume the research firm has tracked since 2010. SoftBank Vision Fund's $1.1 billion investment in California-based View Inc., a developer of energy-efficient windows, was the largest transaction.
In 2019, global clean-energy investment could come close to reaching $300 billion for a sixth consecutive year, but will continue to slide, the research firm forecast. "Economic and political troubles during 2019 might influence the flow of investment in the 'cleaner future,' but they will not halt it," BloombergNEF Chief Editor Angus McCrone said in a Jan. 16 blog post issued with the report.
Installed solar capacity will continue to rise in 2019 despite the headwinds, to between 125 GW and 141 GW, said Jenny Chase, the firm's head of solar research. Global energy storage additions will easily surpass 10 GWh for the first time in 2019, while electric vehicle sales will rise by 40% — a robust growth rate, but down from a 70% expansion in 2018, the firm added.