This new UNEP Report focuses on the global trends in sustainable energy development, covering both the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors. This report shows that in spite of the global economic downturn, investment in sustainable energy is still strong. Resilience to the financial downturn taht was hitting all sectors of the global economy and frustration that, while the UN Climate Convention in Copenhagen was not the big breakdown that might have occured, neither was it the big breakthrough so many had hoped for. Yet, also determination on the part of many industry actors and governments (especially in rapid developing economies) to transform the financial and economic crisis into an opportunity for greener growth.
New investment in sustainable energy in 2009 was $162 billion, down from a revised $173 billion in 2008. The 7% fall reflected the impact of the recession on investment in Europe and North America in particular, with renewable energy projects and companies finding it harder to access finance.
China was the strongest feature of 2009, with money raised by Chinese clean energy companies and utility-scale projects jumping no less than 53% to $33.7 billion. The equivalent figure for the whole of Asia, at $40.8 billion, exceeded that in the Americas last year for the first time ever.
There were other important trends during the year too. One was interest in energy-smart technologies, such as energy efficiency, electric vehicles and batteries. Companies in that sector
enjoyed more investment from venture capital and private equity funds than wind, solar or any other clean energy sector. Another was an increase in government research and development spending, as money started to be spent from the $188 billion of “green stimulus”
programmes announced by major economies after the financial crisis.
But there is a gap between the ambition and the science in terms of where the world needs to be in 2020 to avoid dangerous climate change by midcentury. Sustainable energy can assist in bridging that gap if the right kind of green economy policies are accelerated and embedded internationally and nationally