Nation lags in renewable energy

Kyodo

Global investment in renewable energy hit a record-high of $211 billion in 2010, up 32 percent from the previous year’s $160 billion, the U.N. Environment Program reported Thursday.

Japan’s domestic investment, centering on solar power generation equipment for households, accounted for only around 1.5 percent of the total at about $3.3 billion, highlighting the country’s late start in the growing field of renewable energy in the world.

Investments in developing countries overtook those in developed countries for the first time, the report said. By country, China, which has been constructing large-scale wind farms, was the global leader, at $48.9 billion.

While the amount of investment in the first quarter of the year is seen having stayed at the same level as the year before, the share prices of renewable energy firms have been on the rise on growing concern over nuclear power amid the Fukushima nuclear crisis, it said.

Among developed countries, investments in Germany were the largest due to its accelerated efforts in solar power. There were also notable expansions of investments in Italy, which earlier this year decided to withdraw from nuclear power generation, as well as Spain and France.

The report added that feed-in tariff subsidies, under which the government buys all of the electricity generated using renewable energy sources, contributed to the ballooning of the investments.

“The combination of government target-setting, policy support and stimulus funds is underpinning the renewable industry’s rise and bringing the much-needed transformation of our global energy system within reach,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said.

Investments subject to the report were biomass, geothermal and wind generation projects of more than 1 megawatt, hydro projects of between 0.5 and 50 megawatts, solar projects of more than 0.3 megawatt, all marine energy projects and biofuel projects with a capacity of 1 million liters or more per year.