​Renewable Energy: Seeing the full half of the COP

On Thursday, November 03, 2016Category: Ludovic Subran
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As almost 200 leaders converge on Marrakech for the COP22 conference the world – or at least its green parts – finds itself a tad more hopeful than in previous years. The aim is to implement details of the Paris climate deal, which was touted “historical”.

The fact that dozens of industrial superpowers, including China, the U.S., and the European Union have ratified the Paris agreement justifies some optimism. 

The political elites finally let go of the squabbling at least to some extent and implement a more mature approach.

Yet a nagging question remains: Where’s the money flowing? Or to be more precise: can green energy be turned into greenback?

After a bubble-like development, it seems fundamentals are good. Households, companies and financiers alike approach wind and solar with a clean slate. 2015 marked what seemed like a momentous shift. Investment in renewable energies worldwide has not only peaked at 286 billion USD. It also outpaced demand for the first time. And thanks to the low oil prices, clean energy cost reductions means that more capacity could be bought for the money invested.

Is history being re-made just before delegates convene in Morocco? Not so fast. 

Our new analytic report “Renewable energy: Seeing the full half of the COP” charts the investment and profitability challenges the clean energy industries face in advanced and emerging economies.

Here are the main insights:

Renewables now account for 35% of electricity generation in Europe but only 13% in the U.S. This divergence is in line with new investments: USD2.300bn since 2005 and 687 expected for 2016-2017. 

Investments in renewables have reached a new record last year despite low oil prices. Wind and solar energy lead, while other clean energy sources, especially biofuels, have fallen behind in the last eight years. Profit margins are far from impressive. Solar struggled with an average -10% operating margin on a yearly average, while wind stood at -1% between 2011 and 2013. 

Solar continues to attract investments (USD380bn expected for 2016-2017) and surpass its deleveraged competitor, the wind industry, with USD270bn. 

Fortunately, investors seem to have cautiously regained confidence in an industry that has just managed to survive a volatile period. The past two years have shown that investments in renewables are once again increasing. Worldwide investments in renewables, as a whole, are expected to exceed USD367bn next year and to grow by around +10% yearly until 2017. 

Whereas developed countries expected to see their renewables investments grow by +3% every year between 2014 and 2017, we expect the developing countries to pull themselves upwards at +18% per year, over the same period. In 2014, Asia has caught up with the equal investment amounts in renewables of developed countries. Asia’s advancement in renewables is likely to speed up in the middle run, as a result, of a global increase in renewable investments.

Bottom line: Gasoline guzzlers are here to stay, at least for now. 

Ludovic Subran 

Chief Economist 

Euler Hermes 

If you would like to learn more about Euler Hermes in your country or near you, feel free to visit our countries’ pages.

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