Renewable energy investments increased 5% to $260bn in 2011

A report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance said that a sluggish economy did not hamper investments in new clean energy projects as they increased 5% to $260Bn in 2011, a record high.

U.S. investments in renewable energy moved ahead of China for the first time since 2008, according to the latest data. U.S. projects saw an investment of $55.9Bn in 2011, up 33% from 2010. China’s investments increased 1% to $47.4Bn.

“The news that the US jumped back into the lead in clean energy investment last year will reassure those who worried that it was falling behind other countries,” said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “However before anyone in Washington celebrates too much, the US figure was achieved thanks in large part to support initiatives such as the federal loan guarantee program and a Treasury grant program which have now expired.”

In 2011, investments in solar technology increased 36% to $136.6Bn, nearly double the $74.9Bn investment in wind power, which was down 17% from 2010. Biomass and waste-to-energy investments decreased 18% to $10.8Bn, geothermal dropped from $3.2Bn to $2.8Bn, small hydro decreased 25% to $3Bn and investments in marine technology were steady at $0.3Bn.

“The performance of solar is even more remarkable when you consider that the price of photovoltaic modules fell by close to 50% during 2011, and now stands 75% lower than three years ago, in mid-2008,” Liebreich said. “The cost of PV technology has fallen, but the volume of PV sold has increased by a much greater factor as it approached competitiveness with other sources of power.”

The previous year also saw the one trillionth dollar invested globally in renewables since 2004. The largest single type of investment was the asset finance of utility-scale renewable energy projects, which increased from a revised $138.3Bn in 2010 to $145.6Bn in 2011.

Venture capital and private equity investment saw an increase of 4% in 2011 to $8.9Bn.

To read the full report, Renewable Investments 2011.