Renewable energy: World invests $244 billion in 2012; shift to developing countries underway

UN Environment Programme / REN21 12-Jun-2013

Installed capacity continues to grow as solar prices drop 30-40 percent

New wind installations surge

Untitled 2For only the second time since 2006, global investments in renewable energy in 2012 failed to top the year before, falling 12% mainly due to dramatically lower solar prices and weakened US and EU markets.

However, 2012 was the second highest year ever for renewable energy investments, which total $1.3 trillion since 2006.

And there was a continuing upward trend in developing countries in 2012, with investments in the South topping $112 billion vs $132 billon in developed countries — a dramatic change from 2007, when developed economies invested 2.5 times more in renewables (excluding large hydro) than developing countries, a gap that has closed to just 18%.

The 2012 global investment total for renewable energy (including small hydro-electric projects) was $244 billion. In previous years, global investments totaled $279 billion (2011), $227 billion (2010), $168 billion (2009), $172 billion (2008), $146 billion (2007) and $100 billion (2006).

Renewable energies have rapidly become a vital part of the global energy mix and account for an ever-growing share of electric capacity added worldwide. Total renewable power capacity worldwide exceeded 1,470 GW in 2012, up 8.5% from 2011.

Wind power accounted for about 39% of renewable power capacity added followed by hydropower and solar PV, which each accounted for approximately 26%.

Solar PV capacity reached the 100 GW milestone, surpassing bio-power to become the third largest renewable technology in terms of capacity in operation, after hydro and wind.

The main issue holding back investment last year: ongoing renewable energy policy instability in important developed-economy markets, according to twin reports issued today:

  • Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2013 (, the 6th edition of the Frankfurt School – UNEP Centre/BNEF report, based on data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance ( The report has become the standard reference for global renewable energy investment figures. The 2013 edition includes a foreword from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
  • The REN21 Renewables 2013 Global Status Report (, now the most frequently-referenced report on renewable energy market, industry and policy developments.

The sister publications were launched jointly by Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, Arthouros Zervos, Chairman of REN21, Michael Liebreich, Chief Executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and Ulf Moslener, Head of Research of the Frankfurt School – UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance.

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