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Solar power dominated global investments in 2017

06 April 2018

Seeking to rebrand itself, the world's worst polluter - China - poured in US$ 126.6 billion in renewable energy a year ago, up 31% on 2016.

Investments in solar power also increased by 18 percent at 160.8 billion, and solar power investments made up more than half of all renewables investments in 2017 (excluding large hydro).

Solar energy market, led by China, set the world record in the new renewable energy generation, a capacity reached past year, when solar energy represented more than double the capacity of new fossil fuel facilities, a report endorsed by the United Nations showed on Thursday.

Chinese solar power added 53 gigawatts of new energy capacity to the world past year, out of a world total of 98 gigawatts, according to U.N. Environment, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The country accounted for almost half of all renewable energy investments worldwide, pumping $86.5 billion into solar energy alone in 2017 in what the report described as "an extraordinary solar boom". This accounts for 45 percent of the global total of added solar projects worldwide.

China's government investments in low-priced clean energy have led to the cost of solar energy falling 15 percent previous year to a record US$86 per megawatt hour.

Overall though, solar investments rose considerably and 2017 marked the eighth year in a row where global investments in renewables exceeded $200 billion.

"The extraordinary surge in solar investment shows how the global energy map is changing and, more importantly, what the economic benefits are of such a shift", said UN Environment head Erik Solheim. "Investments in renewables bring more people into the economy, they deliver more jobs, better quality jobs and better paid jobs". "The markets are there and renewables can take on coal, they can take on oil and gas".

In Europe there was a fall of 36%, to $40.9 billion, with big drops in the United Kingdom (down 65% to $7.6 billion) and Germany (down 35% to $10.4 billion). Investment in Japan slipped 28 percent to $13.4 billion. This was more than double the 70GW of net new capacity from fossil fuels. "This shows where we are heading, although the fact that renewables altogether are still far from providing the majority of electricity means that we still have a long way to go".

The report said that the cost of generating electricity from large-scale solar photovoltaic technology fell by 15 per cent.

The current level of electricity generated by renewables corresponds to about 1.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions avoided - roughly equivalent to those produced by the entire USA transport system.

Solar power dominated global investments in 2017