A record £15.2bn was invested in UK clean energy last year, according to figures released today by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
A 24% year-on-year increase for renewables and plunging North Sea investments means renewables attracted more finance in 2015 than the estimated £11bn spent on UK oil and gas, Carbon Brief analysis shows.
Globally, a record $329bn was invested in clean energy despite persistently low oil prices. A year ago, many analysts thought cheap fossil fuels would harm the prospects for renewables as coal and gas became relatively cheaper to burn.
In a statement Michael Liebreich, BNEF chair, says:
These figures are a stunning riposte to all those who expected clean energy investment to stall on falling oil and gas prices. They highlight the improving cost-competitiveness of solar and wind power.
You can see this reflected in the breakdown of investments by project type in the chart below.
Last year’s investment growth appears surprising, given the renewable energy cuts since the last election.
However, these cuts will take time to filter through as projects can take several years from inception to completion. Offshore wind is expected to see continued strong investment through 2016, for instance.
There may also have been a rush to commission projects before subsidy reductions take effect.
Renewables in context
The scale of these clean energy investments is hard to gauge without context. However, comparable and up-to-date figures for other types of UK energy investment are hard to come by.
Investment in renewable electricity was £28.9bn between 2010 and 2013, according to a July 2014 report from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). This figure matches BNEF’s.
DECC’s report says investment in the electricity grid and generation capacity totalled £45bn over the same 2010-2013 period. Renewables accounted for the lion’s share of investment. Electricity networks made up almost all of the remainder, with hardly any money spent on fossil electricity.
The latest economic report from trade group Oil and Gas UK says £14.8bn was invested in the North Sea in 2014, more than double the 2010 figure.
After oil prices plunged in late 2014 and remained at low levels through much of 2015, investment is expected to have been just £11bn during 2015, Oil and Gas UK says.
This pushes oil and gas investment below renewables, a reversal of the previous position.
Oil and gas investments are expected to fall further this year, as oil prices hit new lows. The prospects for clean energy are far more uncertain.
Main image: Engineers on an offshore wind turbine. © Monty Rakusen/Corbis.
Analysis: Record UK renewable energy investment overtakes North Sea spend
A record £15.2bn was invested in UK clean energy last year, according to figures released today by Bloomberg New Energy Finance
A 24% year-on-year increase for renewables and plunging North Sea investments means renewables attracted more finance in 2015 than the estimated £11bn spent on UK oil and gas