The forward march of the renewable energy industry continued through the first half of 2020, defying even the enormous turbulence from the coronavirus crisis, according to the latest BNEF figures showing that global investment in renewables capacity rose by five per cent during the first six months of the year.
The remarkable performance was powered by the offshore wind sector, with investment totalling $35bn - up 319 per cent on the same period last year to outstrip 2019's record full-year figure.
Offshore wind's growth stemmed from a string of massive deals through the first half of the year, encompassing 28 separate offshore wind projects around the world. Among them was the biggest offshore wind project to date, the 5GW Vattenfall Hollandse Zuid array off the coast of the Netherlands, which is set to result in an estimated $3.9bn investment.
Other major offshore deals included the 1.1GW Seagreen project in UK waters, estimated at $3.9bn, and the 600MW CIP Changfang Xidao array off Taiwan, estimated at $3.6bn. The single biggest contributor of new projects was China, with financing determined for 17 Chinese installations, most notably the 600MW Guangdong Yudean Yangjiang Yangxi Shapaat array, worth £1.8bn.
"Offshore wind is benefitting from the 67 per cent reduction in levelized costs achieved since 2012, and the performance of the latest, giant turbines," said Tom Harries, head of wind analysis at BNEF.
"But the first half of this year also owed a lot to a rush in China to finance and build, in order to take advantage of a feed-in tariff before it expires at the end of 2021. I expect a slowdown in offshore wind investment globally in the second half, with potentially a new spike early next year."
Overall clean energy investment, including renewables capacity financing and corporate-level equity deals, reached $137bn in the first half of 2020, BNEF's figures show - an increase of four per cent on the same period last year when total investment reached $131.9bn.
However, the dramatic growth in offshore wind serves to hide the more sobering impact of the coronavirus crisis in other areas of the renewables market. Onshore wind investment slipped 21 per cent to $37.5bn, while solar investment fell 12 per cent to $54.7bn.
Similar declines were seen in the biomass sector, where investment fell 34 per cent to $3.7bn, and the smaller hydro project market, which dropped 14 per cent to $576m. On the other hand, geothermal also bucked the covid downturn, with investment jumping 594 per cent to $676m.
"We expected to see Covid-19 affecting renewable energy investment in the first half, via delays in the financing process and to some auction programs," acknowledged Albert Cheung, head of analysis at BNEF. "There are signs of that in both solar and onshore wind, but the overall global figure has proved amazingly resilient - thanks to offshore wind."
China was by far the largest market for the second year running, investing $41.6bn in clean energy projects, up 42 per cent compared to the same period in 2019, thanks principally to its boom in offshore wind. Europe saw even bigger growth, up 50 per cent at $36.5bn, while US investment fell 30 per cent to $17.8bn.
BNEF's data for corporate-level investment in renewables and energy-smart technologies such as battery storage show that equity raising by specialist companies on public markets stood at $2.4bn in the first half of 2020, down 43 pr cent, while investment from venture capital and private equity funds was up 10 per cent at $2.5bn.
In related news, Octopus Renewables, the clean energy investment arm of Octopus Group, announced yesterday that it has acquired two operational onshore wind farms in the UK with a combined capacity of 16.8MW.
The acquisition marks the first deployment from the Renewable Energy Income Partnership III (REIP III), a £185m institutional mandate announced earlier this year that is closed for further investment. Located in South Lanarkshire and Northamptonshire, the two projects provide the equivalent energy to power more than 17,000 UK homes, leading to emissions savings similar to removing 50,000 petrol or diesel cars from the road. The wind farms were purchased from a conglomerate of sellers made up of Muirhall Energy with WWS Renewables, and Infinergy.
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