Investment in renewable energy capacity worldwide was $282.2 billion last year, up 1% from 2018’s $280.2 billion, with the world’s biggest market, China, slipping back, and its second-largest, the US, hitting a new record.

The latest data from research company BloombergNEF, show the busy second half of 2019 helped push investment ahead of 2018, with the highlights including US onshore wind and, in particular, offshore wind in China and Europe.

The late surge in offshore wind financings took capacity investment in that sector to $29.9 billion, up 19% on 2018 and $2 billion more than in the previous record year of 2016.

“Offshore wind developers in China brought forward 15 projects to beat a scheduled expiry of that country’s feed-in tariff,” said BNEF head of wind research Tom Harries. “We expect the sector’s global momentum to continue in 2020, with the focus on gigawatt-scale projects in the British North Sea and the first commercial arrays off the US East Coast.”

Looking at the overall renewable energy capacity investment figures for 2019, wind (onshore and offshore) led the way with $138.2 billion globally, up 6%. Solar was close behind, at $131.1 billion, down 3%. Falling capital costs in wind and solar meant that the two combined are likely to have seen around 180GW added last year, up some 20GW on 2018.

Among the smaller sectors, biomass and waste-to-energy saw $9.7 billion of capacity investment in 2019, up 9%. Geothermal languished on $1 billion, down 56%. Biofuels were down 43% at an estimated $500 million, and small hydro 3% lower at $1.7 billion.

China slows

China was yet again the biggest investor in renewables, at $83.4 billion in 2019, but this was 8% down on 2018 and the lowest since 2013. It saw a 10% rise in wind investment to $55 billion, but solar fell 33% to $25.7 billion, less than a third of the boom figure reached in 2017.

The US was the second-largest investing country in renewable energy capacity, at $55.5 billion, up 28% on 2018. Instrumental in this was a rush by wind and solar developers to qualify for federal tax credits that were due for scale-back in 2020.

“It’s notable that in this third year of the Trump presidency, which has not been particularly supportive of renewables, US clean energy investment set a new record by a country mile,” said Ethan Zindler, head of Americas for BNEF. “These technologies are more cost-competitive than ever, and the fact that there was a tax credit step-down on the horizon made the market particularly busy in 2019.”

Europe slipped behind the US in 2019, investing $54.3 billion in renewables capacity, down 7%. Spain led the way with $8.4 billion, up 25% on 2018 and the highest annual figure for that country since 2011.

The UK invested $5.3 billion, down 40% and its lowest since 2007. Germany was down 30% at $4.4 billion, its lowest since 2004, and Sweden was down 19% at $3.7 billion, but the Netherlands were up 25% at $5.5 billion, France 3% higher at $4.4 billion, and Ukraine 56% up at $3.4 billion.

Japan invested $16.5 billion in renewable capacity, mainly solar, in 2019, down 10%, while Australia committed $5.6 billion, down 40%. India put $9.3 billion into green energy, 14% less than in 2018, while the United Arab Emirates invested a record $4.5 billion.

Corporate and government research and development in wider-definition clean energy totaled $45.7 billion in 2019, up 1%.