Offshore wind spending reaches record high in 2019

A late surge of offshore wind farm financings in the fourth quarter helped make 2019 a record year for the sector, while total investments in wind power capacity rose 6% year on year, according to new figures.

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Total investments in renewables capacity increased last year, but was still only the third highest annual spend on record (pic: Bloomberg New Energy Finance)

In total, $138.2 billion was invested in wind power in 2019 while total renewable energy spending rose to $282.2 billion, according to BloombergNEF (BNEF).

Despite a subdued start to 2019 renewable energy investment activity picked up in the second half of the year, with increased interest in US onshore wind, and offshore wind in China and Europe.

With multi-billion-dollar financings for projects in UK, Taiwanese and Chinese waters in the fourth quarter, spending on new offshore wind farms rose 19% to a record-high $29.9 billion.

“We expect the (offshore wind) sector’s global momentum to continue in 2020, with the focus on gigawatt-scale projects in the UK North Sea and the first commercial arrays off the US East Coast," said Tom Harries, head of wind research at BNEF. 

Technologies

Wind power spending outstripped solar investments in 2019, according to BNEF’s analysis.

TechnologyInvestment total% change year-on-year
Wind$138.2bn+6%
Solar$131bn-3%
Biomass$9.7bn+9%
Small hydro$1.7bn-3%
Geothermal$1bn-56%
Biofuels$0.5b-43%

The $138.2 billion spent on wind power in 2019 — $108.3 billion on onshore, $29.9 billion on offshore — marked a 6% increase from the previous year.

Fourth quarter financings of the $3.4 billion, 448MW Neart na Gaoithe Neart na Gaoithe (448MW) OffshoreFirth of Forth, Scotland, UK, Europe Click to see full details off the north coast of Scotland, the $2 billion, 376MW Formosa 2 Formosa 2 (376MW) Offshoreoff Miaoli, Taiwan, Asia-Pacific Click to see full details off the west coast of Taiwan, and $1.5 billion for the 500MW Fuzhou Changle C in East China Sea, helped nudge offshore wind annual spending to record levels.

Meanwhile, solar spending dipped 3% to $131 billion, as wind power overtook it as the best financed renewable energy source in 2019.

Investments rose 9% year on year to $9.7 billion in biomass and waste-to-energy, but fell 3% to $1.7 billion in small hydro, 56% in geothermal to $1 billion, and 43% in biofuels to $500 million, BNEF found.

China v the US

Renewable energy investment in the world’s biggest-spending market slipped 8% in 2019, BNEF noted, with $83.4 billion spent in China.

CountryInvestment total% change year-on-year
China$83.4b-8%
US$55.5b+28%

Wind accounted for $55 billion of this total — up 10% year on year — while solar spending fell 33% to €25.7 billion.

Harries said 15 offshore wind projects were brought forward in China last year, as developers moved to exploit the country’s expiring feed-in tariff support scheme.

Meanwhile, in the US a record-high $55.5 billion was spent on renewables in 2019, as wind and solar developers rushed to qualify for the tax credits scheme, which was due to be scaled back in 2020. 

BNEF’s head of Americas, Ethan Zindler, said wind and solar being “more cost competitive than ever” also helped drive investment despite the Trump presidency being “not particularly supportive of renewables”.

Europe

CountryInvestment total% change year-on-year
Europe$54.3b-7%
Spain$8.4b+25%
Netherlands$5.5b+25%
UK$5.3b-50%
Germany$4.4b-40%
France$4.4b+3%
Sweden$3.7b-19%
Ukraine$3.4b+56%

In Europe, the total renewables spend of $54.3 billion was down 7% from 2018, despite investments increasing 25% in Spain to $8.4 billion, its highest spend since 2011.

The Netherlands also saw a 25% increase to $5.5 billion.

Investment was up 3% to $4.4 billion France, while the $3.4 billion spent in Ukraine was 56% more than the previous year.

However, renewable energy investment of $5.3 billion in the UK was down 40% its lowest spend since 2007.

Germany saw spending fall 30% to $4.4 billion, its lowest since 2004, and a 19% decrease in Sweden meant just $3.7 billion was invested there.

Asia-Pacific & Middle East

CountryInvestment total% change year-on-year
Japan$16.5b-10%
India$9.3b-14%
Australia$5.6b-4%
UAE$4.5bn/a

Renewables investments fell in other key Asia-Pacific markets, including a 10% drop in Japan to $16.5 billion, a 40% decrease in Australia to $5.6 billion, and 14% decline in India to $9.3 billion.

However, annual spending reached a record-high for renewables in the United Arab Emirates, where most of the $4.5 billion spent there last year was on a 950MW solar thermal and photovoltaic complex.

The Americas

CountryInvestment total% change year-on-year
Brazil$6.5b+74%
Chile$4.9b+300%
Mexico$4.3b+17%
Argentina$2b-18%

Finally, several South and Central American markets saw spending increase in 2019, with renewables investments up 74% in Brazil to $6.5 billion, and up 17% in Mexico to $4.3 billion.

Financings in Chile totalled $4.9 billion and were up four-fold from the previous year.

However, renewables spending in Argentina of $2 billion was down 18% year on year.

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