Clean energy investment hits record $260 billion

Thu Jan 12, 2012 12:56pm EST
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LONDON (Reuters) - Global investment in clean energy hit a record $260 billion in 2011, up 5 percent from the previous year as investment in solar grew by more than a third despite shrinking profit margins, some bankruptcies and flagging share prices, a report said.

The United States last year regained its title as the top country for clean energy investment, beating out China for the first time since 2008, said a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) on Thursday.

Global clean energy growth was driven mainly by solar, for which investment grew by 36 percent to $136.6 billion, as a 50 percent drop in prices for photovoltaic panels spurred installation.

Solar investment was double that of wind power, which fell 17 percent to $74.9 billion, the report said.

"Remember that for every equipment company operating at thin or negative margins, there is an installer who is getting a good deal," said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of BNEF said in a statement.

He added: "Rumors of the death of clean energy have been greatly exaggerated."

Last year was bleak for some, however. Many solar stocks retreated by more than 60 percent as the prices for panels that convert sunlight into electricity fell sharply, erasing profit margins for manufacturers.

A number of companies have already lost their fight for survival, such as Germany's Solon SE SOOG.DE and Solar Millennium S2MG.DE, which both sank into insolvency in December. That follows U.S. companies Evergreen Solar, SpectraWatt and Solyndra.

U.S. ADVANCES   Continued...