Solar power pushes UK clean energy investment to a record high

Investments in the UK solar industry rose 10-fold last year, increasing the total amount of UK clean energy sector investment by 23 percent in comparison to 2010.

After a disappointing year in 2010, investments in the UK’s clean energy sector made a comeback in 2011, rising to £5.9 billion. According to the Who's Winning the Clean Energy Race? 2011 Edition, published by The Pew Charitable Trusts, solar energy played a large part in this increase, with investments reaching ~£3 billion.

While this is good news for the UK solar industry, which has to date experienced a turbulent ride, its victory could be short-lived.

Phyllis Cuttino, Director of Pew's Clean Energy Program, explained: “In part, investment growth in the United Kingdom can be attributed to investors initiating new projects before policy incentives are curtailed. To maintain growth, the UK must provide consistent, long-term market signals that provide certainty to investors.”

Government’s newly-proposed feed-in tariff mechanism for solar energy is expected to help to stabilise the market, and therefore prevent large surges of installations, however, this will cause the amount of solar investment to decrease.

On a global scale, clean energy investment grew to a record ~£165 billion last year, which marks a 6.5 percent increase over 2010. The US held on to the top spot among all G-20 nations, attracting £30.1 billion, closely followed by China with £28.5 billion and Germany with £19.2 billion.

The increase in global investment can be attributed to a combination of falling technology prices and again, the reduction in clean energy incentives.

“The clean energy sector received its trillionth dollar of private investment just before the end of 2011, demonstrating significant growth over the past eight years,” commented Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Pew's research partner.

“Solar installations drove most of the activity last year as the falling price of photovoltaic modules, now 75 percent lower than three years ago, more than compensated for weakening clean energy support mechanisms in a number of parts of the world.”