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The End of the Boom: Global Renewable Energy Investments Dropped $35.1 Billion in 2013

After nine years of steady growth, UN reports 13% drop in renewables investment, cites global political uncertainty as cause.

PARIS - Global investments in renewable energy slumped 14% last year, with China pouring more money into the sector than Europe for the first time on record, the UN said Monday.

Investments in renewables apart from hydroelectricity dipped to $214.4 billion in 2013, down $35.1 billion from the previous year and 23% below the record set in 2011, according to a report from the UN Environment Program (UNEP).

The fall was down to "political uncertainty in several markets," meaning the lack of clarity over government support for the sector, and the falling cost of solar systems, said the report.

"While some may point to the fact that overall investment in renewables fell in 2013, the drop masks the many positive signals of a dynamic market that is fast evolving and maturing," Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP, said in a statement.

The figures come as a panel of UN climate change experts issued its starkest-ever warning about the perils of a ravaged climate system for future generations.

"The impacts of climate change will leave no part of the world untouched and unaffected," chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Rajendra Pachauri said Monday.

In Europe, which has been a global leader in supporting the development of renewable energy, investment plunged 44% to $48 billion last year, UNEP said.

That compares to a 6% fall in China, to $56 billion, and a reduction of a tenth in the United States, to $36 billion.

After nine years of growth, last year was the first time investments in renewables fell in emerging economies, the report found.

Still, the news wasn't all bad for the renewable energy sector.

Overall, its share of world electricity generation rose to 8.5%, up from 7.8% in 2012. Excluding hydroelectricity, renewables accounted for 43.6% of newly installed generating capacity in 2013.

Solar energy still has the strongest backing from investors, even though the average price of installing a solar panel has dropped by 60%.

Renewable energy companies also got more backing from private investors, with equity-raisings doubling to a record $11 billion over the year, the UN said.

"Foundations for future growth in the renewable energy market fell into place in 2013," said Michael Liebreich, chairman of the Advisory Board for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which collaborated in the study.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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