Investment in the UK renewables industry was the strongest in Europe in 2015, reaching $23.4 billion – despite adverse conditions such as the strength of U.S. dollar, the plunge in fossil fuel commodity prices, continued weakness of the European economy and further declines in solar photovoltaics (PV) costs.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that UK investments in clean energy increased 24% in 2015 compared to 2014, primarily driven by wind and solar PV projects. Europe invested some $58.5 billion, down 18% from 2014 and its weakest figure since 2006.
UK wind energy investments nearly doubled, to $15.3 billion from $7.7 billion in 2014, with new onshore wind projects peaking in the second half of the year, boosted by the end of governmental subsidies.
David Hostert, wind analyst at BNEF said: “As DECC [UK energy department] announced it would end the green certificate subsidy a year earlier than previously communicated, a lot of industry players have sped up their schedules.”
Between July and December 2015, an 1 gigawatt (GW) of new capacity has been financed in the UK, compared to 415 megawatts (MW) in the same period last year, the analyst revealed.
He added the investment boom was also influenced by “a lot of buying and selling [activity] as everybody consolidated their pipeline,” as well as continued strong offshore wind investment.
Solar PV projects accounted for $4.9 billion of the country’s renewables investment last year, down from $7 billion in 2014.
Jenny Chase, BNEF’s head of solar, said “the drop is most likely due to solar [energy] getting cheaper, plus a weaker Q1 2016 boom compared with Q1 2015.” First-quarter projects tend to get financed the previous year, she noted.
The UK currently ranks as the fourth-largest global market for small-scale solar (sub-1 MW), behind only Japan, the U.S. and China, with $1.8 billion invested in 2015.