Sustainable Energy

China becomes a 'driving power' for solar energy with $86.5 billion invested last year

Guo Chen | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

The world has invested $2.9 trillion in green energy sources since 2004, according to new research, with China leading the way in recent years with its push towards solar power.

The "Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018" report was published Thursday by UN Environment, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Center, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. It also found that 98 gigawatts (GW) of new solar capacity was installed in 2017.

What's more, solar power attracted $160.8 billion of investment, more than any other technology. China, where a staggering 53 GW was added and $86.5 billion invested, was described as a "driving power" behind the increase in solar.

"The extraordinary surge in solar investment shows how the global energy map is changing and, more importantly, what the economic benefits are of such a shift," Erik Solheim, the head of UN Environment, said in a statement.

"Investments in renewables bring more people into the economy, they deliver more jobs, better quality jobs and better paid jobs," he added. "Clean energy also means less pollution, which means healthier, happier development."

The report found that China invested the largest amount of money in renewables last year, at $126.6 billion. This represents a 31 percent increase compared to 2016. Around the world, 157 GW of renewable power was commissioned last year.

"The world added more solar capacity than coal, gas, and nuclear plants combined," Nils Stieglitz, president of the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, said. "This shows where we are heading, although the fact that renewables altogether are still far from providing the majority of electricity means that we still have a long way to go."

While China led the way, other countries saw a drop in renewables investment. In the U.S., investment fell by 6 percent to $40.5 billion, while Europe saw its investments come in at $40.9 billion, a 36 percent reduction.