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Report says US best for renewables investment but warns against Brazil

May 29th, 2013

The US is the destination of choice for renewable energy investment according to a new report, which puts China, Germany, Australia and the UK as the rest of the top five countries.

Ernst & Young’s Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index does just what it says – calculates which countries have the most to offer financiers in return for their investment.

The US is placed first, in large part on the back of President Obama’s “blueprint for a clean and secure energy future” which he unveiled earlier this year.

This blueprint included a call for the US to double its renewable energy generation by 2020 and halve oil imports against 2008 levels.

It also proposed a $2bn fund that will provide targeted support over the next decade, via an Energy Security Trust, for research initiatives designed to accelerate the cost-effective rollout of a wide range of clean technologies, including homegrown biofuels and fuel cells.

China takes second place thanks to $2.4bn of renewable energy subsidies up for grabs, which EY says displays “an appetite for clean energy”.

“While political change often results in policy reversals and varying appetites for a low carbon economy, there appear to be no such worries in China,” states the report. “Early indications are that significant investment in renewable energy is here to stay and remains a critical part of the government’s long-term growth strategy.”

The report also highlights those countries it deems as ‘hot’ and those which are showing signs of cooling on renewables.

Topping the hot zones is Chile, which is leading a Latin American charge on low carbon power. The report says that “a cross-party agreement to expedite key energy legislation should boost investment in transmission networks and geothermal exploration, as well as formalise the ambitious target of 20 per cent renewable energy by 2024”.

“High electricity prices and surging energy demand driven by the mining sector are galvanising significant project activity, including a number of >100MW wind projects and a giant 400MW CSP project.”

Also ‘hot’ is India, thanks to a revival of wind projects, and Saudi Arabia, which is exploiting its solar potential.

Three countries are highlighted as being on a downward renewables trajectory – Brazil, Romania and Spain.

Brazil is deemed a risk area for investor because of new policies. The report staes: “In a bid to avoid further connection delays, the government is proposing that wind farm developers take responsibility for developing new transmission lines in future government-led auctions.

“Regulators may also apply domestic content rules in future tenders, in addition to those already attached to development bank funding. However, such measures will increase project costs and intensify competition, prompting a number of wind companies to reconsider their presence in Brazil.”

In Romania, an announcement in April of a government freeze on support for renewable projects has “threatened a mass exodus from the sector”, while Spain has stripped back subsidies to such a degree that some largte international investors have started legal actions against the government.

The report’s chief editor Ben Warren said that changes in the renewables landscape is seeing the balance of power shift.

“Declining government support, particularly in Western markets still struggling with austerity, may have put the brakes on some segments, but emerging markets appear eager to fill the gap as renewable energy plays an increasingly important role in energy security, enabling economic growth and stimulating economic diversification,” he said.

He added that “while global investment may be down on the previous year, installed capacity certainly is not, reflecting serious levels of resilience in the sector during these challenging times”.

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