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China’s Solar Boom Drives Clean Energy Investment

The solar boom in China played a major part in the global clean energy investment surge in 2017 which reached its second-highest ever figure at $333.5 billion, according to a recent report.

The report shows that Chinese spending on clean energy in 2017 increased by 24 per cent from the previous year to $132.6 billion, setting a new all-time record. Most of the investment, around $86.5 billion, was spent on solar, up 58 per cent from the previous year.

The surge in solar investment significantly increased China’s photovoltaic capacity from 30GW to an estimated 53GW. According to BNEF, the growth of the solar market in China has been spurred by its regulator’s hesitation in curbing subsidies for new utility-scale projects outside government quotas as well as by the declining costs of solar projects leading to rising deployments on sites such as rooftops and industrial parks. China’s overall clean energy investment in 2017 accounted for 40 per cent of the $333.5 billion global clean energy investment recorded for the year.

The figure is 3 per cent higher than that of the previous year and only 7 per cent short of the record figure of $360.3 billion reached in 2015. “The 2017 total is all the more remarkable when you consider that capital costs for the leading technology – solar – continue to fall sharply. Typical utility-scale PV systems were about 25% cheaper per megawatt last year than they were two years earlier,” said BNEF chief executive Jon Moore in a release.

Behind China as the biggest clean energy investor was the US at $56.9 billion, up 1 per cent from 2016 despite the Trump administration’s les-than-kind view of renewable energy. Countries with notable investment growth were Mexico, up 516 per cent to $6.2 billion; Egypt up 495 per cent to $2.6 billion; and Australia, up 150 per cent to a country record of $9 billion, the report shows. The falling capital cost of solar has made it the biggest sector for investment in 2017, attracting $160.8 billion – equivalent to 48 per cent of the global total for all of clean energy investment, followed by wind at $107.2 billion. BNEF believes that this trend will continue in 2018 and result in a significant increase in global solar installations, which will still be dominated by China. “However, this is the year that Latin America, south-east Asia, the Middle East and Africa will make up a measurable slice of the total. For instance, Mexico is likely to be a 3GW-plus market in 2018, and Egypt, the U.A.E. and Jordan between them at 1.7-2.1GW,” said Jenny Chase, head of solar at BNEF.

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