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Tue Mar 22, 2016, 08:55 PM

Nature: The Planet May Be In Trouble If China Controls It's Air Pollution.

Recently, in this space I referred to a paper published in Nature, (Nature 525, 367–371 (17 September 2015)) that reports that air pollution in China kills 1.4 million people per year.

My remarks are here: Nature: China's annual air pollution deaths now stand at 1.4 million per year

An excerpt from the original paper is now included:

Considering the global population of 6.8 billion in 2010, it follows that the mean per capita mortality attributable to air pollution is about 5 per 10,000 person-years. Of these 5 persons per 10,000 worldwide, about 2 die by CEV, 1.6 by IHD, 0.8 by COPD, 0.35 by ALRI and 0.25 by LC. The highest per capita mortality is found in the Western Pacific region, followed by the Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asia. The combination of high per capita mortality with high population density explains the (by far) highest number of deaths in the Western Pacific, China being the main contributor (1.36 million per year). Note that the mortality attributable to air pollution in China is approximately an order of magnitude higher than that attributable to Chinese road transport injuries and HIV/AIDS, and ranks among the top causes of death28. Southeast Asia has the second highest premature mortality, where India is the main contributor (0.65 million per year). The global mortality linked to air pollution is strongly influenced by these high numbers in Asia.

Even I rounded up, by 40,000 human lives, it still seems dire, no? (Who's counting? It's not like plus or minus 40,000 human lives count, unless the deaths can be attributed somehow to nuclear power, like say, Fukushima.)

This week's Nature raises a new worry about Chinese air pollution: That China may get air pollution under control.

First from the "news item" referring readers to the technical article within the journal:

Nature 531, 310–312 (17 March 2016)

In December 2015, world leaders agreed to limit the increase in global average temperature to less than 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures (see Nature 528, 315–316; 2015). Meeting this aspiration will require large and rapid reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, making it imperative to understand and account for the emissions from different countries. China has undergone rapid economic development over the past few decades and now has one of the world's largest economies — and greenhouse-gas emissions to match. On page 357 of this issue, Li et al.1 comprehensively assess China's contribution to climate change and explore how this has altered as the Chinese economy has grown...

...Li et al. used a model that couples biogeochemistry and climate to estimate China's contribution to global radiative forcing over the period 1980–2010. Crucially, they account for almost all anthropogenic drivers of climate change. They find that China's relative contribution to global radiative forcing from carbon dioxide emissions associated with fossil-fuel use increased almost threefold in these 30 years. This is to be expected, given the surge in China's economy over this period. More surprisingly, they find that China's relative contribution to total global radiative forcing has remained at 10% over this time.

To understand the reasons behind this remarkable result, Li and colleagues made a detailed analysis of the different drivers of radiative forcing. They found that the air pollutants that cause China's notorious pollution haze have had complex effects on climate, counteracting some of the increase in radiative forcing from greenhouse gases. Some components of air pollution, such as black-carbon particles, absorb sunlight and warm Earth's climate. By contrast, sulfate particles scatter light, resulting in climate cooling.

Over the past few decades, China's relative contribution to global radiative forcing from sulfate has increased dramatically. This is because Chinese sulfate emissions soared at the same time that Europe and the United States instigated controls that slashed their sulfate emissions. It has long been known that some air pollutants cool the climate2; what is remarkable in the present study is that the concurrent changes in different emissions have led to a stable overall contribution of China to global radiative forcing (Fig. 1).

Here is the technical paper: The contribution of China’s emissions to global climate forcing (Nature 531, 357–361 (17 March 2016))

From the text of the technical paper:

Figure 1 shows the relative and absolute contributions of historical Chinese emissions since 1750 to each component of global RF in 2010. Overall, China contributes 10% ± 4% (0.30 ± 0.11 W m−2 out of 2.88 ± 0.46 W m−2) of the current net global RF from anthropogenic emissions since 1750. This contribution is the sum of two terms with opposite signs. China contributes 12% ± 2% (0.48 ± 0.09 W m−2 out of 4.13 ± 0.40 W m−2) of the global positive RF from WMGHGs, tropospheric ozone and black carbon aerosols, and 15% ± 6% (−0.18 ± 0.06 out of −1.26 ± 0.24 W m−2) of the global negative RF from LUC-induced surface albedo changes, stratospheric ozone, the effect of ozone precursors on CH4 lifetime, and sulfate, nitrate and particulate organic matter aerosols.

Abbreviations: RF = Radiative forcing. WMGHG = Well Mixed Green House Gases LUC = Land Use Changes

According to the authors, the past counts, in case people want to argue that it's all China's fault, even though China's per capita emissions are about 1/4 that of Americans:

...It is important to note that the contribution of China to current global annual anthropogenic emissions is larger than its contribution to radiative forcings (Fig. 1). For WMGHGs that have long atmospheric lifetimes7 (from a few decades to several centuries), the legacy of past emissions from countries that began to emit early (such as Europe and the USA) still have a contribution to present-day RF larger than that of China, despite China’s much higher emissions nowadays. In contrast, because SLCFs have short atmospheric lifetimes7 (from days to months), it is the spatial distribution of current emissions, and the local processes controlling their atmospheric transport and removal, that determine the contribution of Chinese emissions of ozone precursors and aerosols to the global RF...

Of course, you had nothing to do with it at all, because you have a solar powered electric car made by BMW or Tesla or some other wonderful company that works on your brain like a narcotic at best, a hallucinogen at worst.


Some graphics from the paper:

a, The global RF components and their uncertainty, as estimated by the IPCC7. b, The relative contributions of China to the various components of global RF in 2010, with our assessment of uncertainties (see Methods). When one component of the RF is driven by only one species, China’s relative contribution to present-day emissions of that species is also shown as an empty bar oulined in the same colour. c, The absolute contributions of China to the RF components and uncertainties, as obtained by combining the values of the two previous panels using a Monte Carlo approach (n = 50,000). The ‘Total’ columns of a and c are obtained through Monte Carlo summation (n = 50,000) of the corresponding RF components; the ‘Total’ column of b is then deduced through the element-wise ratio of these two Monte Carlo ensembles. All uncertainties are one standard deviation.


All-sky RF of the SLCFs induced by China through emission of short-lived pollutants and precursors in 2010. These RFs are direct outputs from the LMDz-INCA model. a, The net RF of all the SLCFs combined. b–f, The RFs from black carbon, sulfates, tropospheric ozone, nitrate and particulate organic matter, respectively.

Returning to the news item:

Air pollution is a serious environmental issue in China, where 1.3 million people die each year because of exposure to poor-quality air outdoors3. Reductions in the emissions of air pollutants are urgently required to improve air quality, but this will also affect Earth's climate. Li et al. find that the current composition of Chinese air pollution causes almost no net radiative forcing — the cooling effects of sulfate aerosols balance the warming impacts of black-carbon emissions.

(The round down by 60,000 human deaths, but who's counting? It's not like Fukushima is involved.)

If you think it's hot now, just wait. China's rapid coal growth has stopped, and, as a result, it's sulfate loads are no longer rising as fast. Like many other rich countries, they're burning more and more dangerous natural gas. (They also have the world's largest program of building nuclear reactors.)

Don't worry. Be happy. France is building a solar roadway. It's meaningless, but it's the thought that counts.

Have a nice day tomorrow.

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Tue Mar 22, 2016, 09:10 PM

1. Can you explain more about the use of natural gas.


Like many other rich countries, they're burning more and more dangerous natural gas.

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Response to Wilms (Reply #1)

Wed Mar 23, 2016, 07:36 PM

10. Yes, I'll be happy to do so. The big lie about dangerous natural gas is that it's a "clean" fuel.

This claim is made because the main constituent of dangerous natural gas is methane. Methane lacks a carbon-carbon bond, and thus does not form very much soot, except for a minor side reaction known as the Boudouard reaction from the carbon monoxide formed from incompletely burned methane.

The Boudouard reaction has the following equation: 2CO ↔ CO[sub]2[/sub] + C. The C is carbon black, mentioned in the paper as a climate forcing material since it absorbs light.

Small amounts of soot are also formed from ethane, propane, and butane, which are also constituents of dangerous natural gas.

However the relative lack of soot compared to coal - soot being responsible for a fair fraction of the deaths from air pollution - causes dangerous natural gas to be incorrectly labeled as a "clean" fuel.

The dirty secret of the dangerous natural gas industry, besides the destruction of land, water and air from the practice of fracking, is that when methane burns, it releases carbon dioxide. This is actually not an industrial secret. It's well known, I would hope, by most high school chemistry students.

Methane of course, is a more powerful greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide, and it well known that methane leaks significantly in mining, shipping, use, storage and other sources of leaks. In this way dangerous natural gas also is a climate forcing tool

The other major constituent lacking in many grades of dangerous natural gas is sulfur, except for tiny amounts of mercaptans added as an odorant. Sulfur when placed in combustion situations is oxidized to sulfur dioxide and sulfur trioxide. The latter reacts with water to make sulfuric acid, a component of acid rain, along with nitrogen oxides, which react to form nitric acid. As is pointed out in the paper, sulfur oxides in the atmosphere scatter light, rendering more diffuse, and add an element of opacity to the atmosphere. It has a net cooling effect.

Thus dangerous natural gas results in two climate forcing gases, methane and carbon dioxide, while reducing the quantity of a cooling gases, sulfur oxides and sulfuric acid vapor. (Some geoengineering proposal - very, very, very, very stupid proposals in my view - have suggested adding sulfur oxides to the upper atmosphere.)

Dangerous natural gas also produces less nitrogen oxides than does coal or gasoline (particularly when burned in compression engines, since heat and pressure causes nitrogen to "burn" albeit endothermically). Nitrogen oxides are the brown component of smog that one can see if one stands on most days on the beach in one of the beach cities of Los Angeles, Redondo, Hermosa or Manhattan and looks out at the ocean, as well as many other places, the New York Skyline. These also reduce climate forcings.

I hope this clarifies the situation with respect to dangerous natural gas. Thanks for asking.

Have a nice evening.

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Response to NNadir (Reply #10)

Wed Mar 23, 2016, 07:59 PM

11. Thanks. It does.


I've been very concerned about fracking (and the specious use of the term "clean energy" for all the other general and specific reasons you pointed to. I was not aware of the greenhouse cooling effect of particulates...even though it is right in front of my eyes.

I share your frustration with the misunderstandings resulting from the public's relatively limited knowledge. I was humbled to learn that reforesting in some areas may have a negative effect...that is the reduction of reflectivity from snow cover.

Somewhat off topic, how many people can this planet sustain with current technology? And I ask that with an underlying assumption that we largely supplant fossil fuel use by employing as much renewables as we can and as much nuclear power as we have to in order to severely reduce greenhouse gas emission from energy production. It seems our energy production is only part of the problem with the rest being what it is that we do with that energy.

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Response to Wilms (Reply #11)

Wed Mar 23, 2016, 10:15 PM

14. Between 2004 and 2014, the world spent $875.5B on solar energy; $711B on wind...

...$137.5B on biofuels, and 2015, from preliminary projections was even worse for all three forms of so called "renewable energy."

When small hydro, geothermal, and tidal energy is added the grand total spent on so called "renewable energy" amounted between 2004 and 2014 to 1.804 trillion dollars.

This is the claim registered by the so called "Frankfurt School UNEP Collaborating Center for Climate and the Environment".

Their data may be found at their website: Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2015

The amount of money spent on so called "renewable energy" exceeds the individual gross domestic product of countries like Russia, Canada, and Australia.

The amount spent on wind and solar alone exceeds the gross national product of Indonesia, a nation with more than 250 million people living in it.

The result of all this spending in the last ten years is that 2015 was the worst year ever recorded for increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the first year whose average value was more than 3.00 ppm over the previous year. For all of 2016, the weekly rates of comparison with the same week of the previous year are averaging 3.15 ppm.

The figures all represent an enormous failure. Of course this is an unpopular thing to say, and one can get in a lot of trouble and hear infinite amounts of whining that amounts to denial for saying it, as I have learned, but it is nonetheless, irrespective of whose hair it singes, the truth.

So called "renewable energy" is not sustainable because of its intense demand for metals and other materials, many of which are fairly exotic. The low energy to mass ratio - which by the way is made even worse by the thermodynamically absurd plan to "store" energy - means that there is not enough material on the entire planet to sustain it very much longer.

Solar and wind energy, combined, do not provide even 5 of the 560 exajoules humanity consumes each year. Their entire annual output assembled over half a century or relentless cheering for them does not exceed the single year increase in dangerous natural gas use.

Continuing this vast extremely expensive experiment and expecting a different result is not going to change a damned thing.

The world built close to 450 nuclear plants in a period of about 25 years, with the world's largest producer of nuclear energy, the United States, with roughly 100 such plants built, enjoying some of the lowest electricity prices in the world, although prices are rising nationally because of our desire to run down the so called "renewable energy" rabbit hole.

Worldwide, nuclear power plants produce about 28 exajoules of primary energy, and easily outstrip all the world's forms of so called "renewable energy" combined.

Now we hear that "nuclear energy is too expensive" and "nuclear energy is too slow."

These are announcements that what has already happened is impossible.

There is no reason that nuclear power plants should cost $10 billion dollars each, other than the fact that ignorant people - like arsonists complaining about forest fires - have done everything in their power to destroy nuclear intellectual and physical infrastructure by continuous specious appeals to fear and ignorance. This results in practically every nuclear plant built in modern times being a "FOAKE" case, "first of a kind engineering."

Suppose though that we spent $10B on each reactor, each designed, unlike wind turbines or solar panels, to run for 60 years, more than half a century. For the money squandered on solar and wind alone in the last ten years, we could have built 85 nuclear plants in the last ten years. The thermal output of a large scale nuclear plant is roughly 3000 MW(th), plus or minus a few hundred MW, registered as primary energy, which translates to an average annual energy yield of 95 petajoules. Eighty-five plants would yield thus close to 8 exajoules, and do so, without replacement, for 60 years. Each plant built would represent a gift made by our generation to the future generations.

That's not how we live today, of course; we place no value on the future, and couldn't care less about future generations but if we did...

I oppose spending another dime on so called "renewable energy." We have a technology that is far superior, more sustainable, and far cleaner. No amount of money will make so called "renewable energy" work, and, I note, with more than passing disgust, that since the wind does not always blow, and the sun doesn't always shine, it makes the "need" for dangerous natural gas (or worse, batteries) permanent.

I'm sorry if that offends anyone, but I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't state clearly what I have found out. I often feel like the mythical Cassandra, who always told the truth but was never believed, but that is what it is.

Have a nice day tomorrow.

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Response to NNadir (Reply #14)

Fri Mar 25, 2016, 01:53 AM

15. Still trying to blame enviros for nuclear's problems, and still too cowardly

...to make a public case for just how nuclear regulations should be weakened. Really -- I see no PR from the nuclear industry about this. Makes you go 'Hmmmmm....'

The canard about environmentalists killing nuclear has been debunked, and we're not going to be your scapegoats.

Deregulated markets do not want to bet on such large infrastructural risks that suffer from gigantism and the need to use so much water.

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Tue Mar 22, 2016, 09:37 PM

2. From the title of your post, you imply someone else should

Control China's air quality.

Last time I checked, they are a sovereign nation and as such, could tell the rest of world to stick it.

What then?

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Response to Kilgore (Reply #2)

Tue Mar 22, 2016, 10:06 PM

3. your reading comprehension is lacking.

that is NOT what the title implies.

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Tue Mar 22, 2016, 10:35 PM

4. In summary:

Air pollution is a serious environmental issue in China, where 1.3 million people die each year because of exposure to poor-quality air outdoors.

Reductions in the emissions of air pollutants are urgently required to improve air quality, but this will also affect Earth's climate.

Li et al.'s research, described in a paper published by Nature entitled "Global warming: China’s contribution to climate change" finds that the current composition of Chinese air pollution causes almost no net radiative forcing — the cooling effects of sulfate aerosols balance the warming impacts of black-carbon emissions.

So, as China cleans up its act, both these warming and cooling atmospheric pollutants will be reduced, as will emissions of CO2.

Thanks NNadir.

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Response to Ghost Dog (Reply #4)

Tue Mar 22, 2016, 11:00 PM

5. Well, that and twisting it into an anti-solar rant.

Of course, now even EVs are the Devil to NNadir, our nuclear advocate. Never mind that nuclear is supposed to be competing with wind and solar for the EV energy market.

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Response to cprise (Reply #5)

Wed Mar 23, 2016, 03:24 AM

6. Hence the summary, cprise: more to the point. n/t

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Response to cprise (Reply #5)

Wed Mar 23, 2016, 07:20 AM

7. I am reporting from one of the world's premier scientific journals, including of course...

Last edited Wed Mar 23, 2016, 08:19 AM - Edit history (1)

...a little sarcasm about the stupidity of "investing" close to a trillion dollars in ten years on the useless, expensive, and toxic solar industry.

What I get from the people who still support this tragedy, in spite of the obvious failure of this faith based "plan" to address the collapse of the planetary atmosphere, is even more whining, about the sarcasm, and predictably, no comment on the science.

This is to be expected. The people who endorse continuing with this failed scheme despite of its results show, if anything, their disinterest in the environment in particular, and science in general.

It's interesting, by the way, since this paper refers to China. that we never hear from the purveyors of this absurd scheme to run the world on energy that's available for a few hours a day - if that - about the cadmium pollution in China, now effecting ten percent of the total rice crop in the Southern part of that country.

They'll burn all kinds of gas and coal to run computers to complain about an atom of cesium-134 in a tuna fish, and not a word about the food supply of hundreds of millions of human beings.

I am very pleased to oppose the solar industry. If most people can't think, someone who can think must make every effort to do so For a little under a trillion bucks in ten years, it's had no effect, absolutely none, on the environmental disaster before us.

I am also very pleased to engage, whenever possible, in my long term moral crusade to confront the stupidity and ignorance directed against the world's largest, still by far, source of climate change gas free primary energy.

Have a nice day today.

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Response to NNadir (Reply #7)

Wed Mar 23, 2016, 08:17 AM

8. And money doesn't grow on trees

Its conjured up on bankers' keyboards. Its a good thing for them they own most of the centralized generation, or their business model could have been history a generation ago.

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Response to cprise (Reply #8)

Wed Mar 23, 2016, 08:38 AM

9. The solar industry's expenditures, according the UN figures, outstripped the GDP of 172 of 193...

...nations, according to the Wikipedia page.

Most of this money - on a planet where two billion people lack access to what WHO calls "improved sanitation," defined as an "improved latrine" - has been awarded to rich people at the expense of poor people.

WHO Sanitation and Health Page

Who gets "feed in tariffs" and "tax credits" for solar energy, some poor person pooping outside a cardboard hut in Mumbai, or some rich asshole in living in a McMansion in New Jersey with snow covered solar panels on his roof?

Whining about "bankers" and their "keyboards" and the very, very, very, very, very, very stupid idea that distributed energy - which translates, as the world's largest distributed energy system, the automobile, shows - is superior to centralized energy is simply put, garbage thinking.

I hear this kind of indifferent crap all the time. Meanwhile, on planet earth, with nearly two trillion bucks sunk into the wind and solar rabbit hole in just ten years, 2015 was the worst year ever recorded for increases in the concentration of the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The solar industry, for the record, functions as just one more tool for the rich to benefit at the expense of the poor.

Have a nice day.

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Response to cprise (Reply #8)

Wed Mar 23, 2016, 08:04 PM

12. Climate Change 2016: Investors Vow To Pour Trillions Of Dollars Into Clean Energy Transition

Climate Change 2016: Investors Vow To Pour Trillions Of Dollars Into Clean Energy Transition


The financial sector’s participation is considered critical for ensuring the goals of the Paris climate conference are actually achieved. Last December, the leaders of nearly 200 nations agreed to limit the rise of global average temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-Industrial levels.

To hit that target, the world must invest at least $12.1 trillion in renewable electricity — including solar and wind power, battery storage and energy efficiency — within the next 25 years, analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance said in a new report. So far, countries are on track to spend $6.9 trillion by 2040, resulting in an investment gap of $5.2 billion, by BNEF’s estimate. Investments in emissions-free vehicles, alternative fuels and sustainable-agriculture practices will add trillions more to the total.

Investors and fund managers at the event pledged to plug that funding hole by backing more renewable energy projects and revisiting their investments in fossil fuel companies or energy-intensive sectors.

“We want to be part of closing that gap,” Thomas DiNapoli, the New York State comptroller, told reporters at the U.N. headquarters. He noted the state this month launched a 10-year, $5 billion Clean Energy Fund to install more solar and wind power in New York. “Investors have put the word out that we’re looking to put more money into these kinds of opportunities, so the opportunities are coming to us,” he said.

The financial industry has transformed from a reluctant bystander on the topic of climate change to an active participant in the past few years...


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Response to cprise (Reply #5)

Wed Mar 23, 2016, 08:11 PM

13. 2015 data on investment from Bloomberg

This is a Bloomberg Press Release intended for dissemination.

JAN 14, 2016
View this press release in PDF.

2015 was also the highest ever for installation of renewable power capacity, with 64GW of wind and 57GW of solar PV commissioned during the year, an increase of nearly 30% over 2014.

London and New York, 14 January 2016 – Clean energy investment surged in China, Africa, the US, Latin America and India in 2015, driving the world total to its highest ever figure, of $328.9bn, up 4% from 2014’s revised $315.9bn and beating the previous record, set in 2011 by 3%.

The latest figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance show dollar investment globally growing in 2015 to nearly six times its 2004 total and a new record of one third of a trillion dollars (see chart on page 3), despite four influences that might have been expected to restrain it.

These were: further declines in the cost of solar photovoltaics, meaning that more capacity could be installed for the same price; the strength of the US currency, reducing the dollar value of non-dollar investment; the continued weakness of the European economy, formerly the powerhouse of renewable energy investment; and perhaps most significantly, the plunge in fossil fuel commodity prices.

Over the 18 months to the end of 2015, the price of Brent crude plunged 67% from $112.36 to $37.28 per barrel, international steam coal delivered to the north west Europe hub dropped 35% from $73.70 to $47.60 per tonne. Natural gas in the US fell 48% on the Henry Hub index from $4.42 to $2.31 per million British Thermal Units.

Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said: “These figures are a stunning riposte to all those who expected clean energy investment to stall on falling oil and gas prices. They highlight the improving cost-competitiveness of solar and wind power, driven in part by the move by many countries to reverse-auction new capacity rather than providing advantageous tariffs, a shift that has put producers under continuing price pressure.

“Wind and solar power are now being adopted in many developing countries as a natural and substantial part of the generation mix: they can be produced more cheaply than often high wholesale power prices; they reduce a country’s exposure to expected future fossil fuel prices; and above all they can be built very quickly to meet unfulfilled demand for electricity. And it is very hard to see these trends going backwards, in the light of December’s Paris Climate Agreement.”

Looking at the figures in detail, the biggest piece of the $328.9bn invested in clean energy in 2015 was asset finance of utility-scale projects such as wind farms, solar parks, biomass and waste-to-energy plants and small hydro-electric schemes. This totalled $199bn in 2015, up 6% on the previous year.[1]

The biggest projects financed last year included a string of large offshore wind arrays in the North Sea and off the coast of China. These included the UK’s 580MW Race Bank and 336MW Galloper, with estimated costs of $2.9bn and $2.3bn respectively, Germany’s 402MW Veja Mate, at $2.1bn, and China’s Longyuan Haian Jiangjiasha and Datang & Jiangsu Binhai, each of 300MW and $850m.

The biggest financing in onshore wind was of the 1.6GW Nafin Mexico portfolio, for an estimated $2.2bn. For solar PV, it was the Silver State South project, at 294MW and about $744m, and for solar thermal or CSP, it was the NOORo portfolio in Morocco, at 350MW and around $1.8bn. The largest biomass project funded was the 330MW Klabin Ortiguera plant in Brazil, which in addition to the construction of a 1.5m tn of cellulose production plant, had a total investment of $2.3bn, and the largest geothermal one was Guris Efeler in Turkey, at 170MW and an estimated $717m.

After asset finance, the next largest piece of clean energy investment was spending on rooftop and other small-scale solar projects. This totaled $67.4bn in 2015, up 12% on the previous year, with Japan by far the biggest market, followed by the US and China.

Preliminary indications are that, thanks to this utility-scale and small-scale activity, both wind and solar PV saw around 30% more capacity installed worldwide in 2015 than in 2014. The wind total for last year is likely to end up at around 64GW, with that for solar just behind at about 57GW. This combined total of 121GW will have made up around half of the net capacity added in all generation technologies (fossil fuel, nuclear and renewable) globally in 2015.

Public market investment in clean energy companies was $14.4bn last year, down 27% from 2014 but in line with the 10-year average. Top deals included a $750m secondary share issue by electric car maker Tesla Motors, and a $688m initial public offering by TerraForm Global, a US-based ‘yieldco’ owning renewable energy projects in emerging markets.

Venture capital and private equity investors pumped $5.6bn into specialist clean energy firms in 2015, up 17% on the 2014 total but still far below the $12.2bn peak of 2008. The biggest VC/PE deal of last year was $500m for Chinese electric vehicle company NextEV.

There was $20bn of asset finance in clean energy technologies such as smart grid and utility-scale battery storage, representing an 11% rise on 2014, the latest in an unbroken series of annual increases over the past nine years. The final category of clean energy investment, government and corporate research and development spending, totaled $28.3bn in 2015, up just 1%. This figure provides a benchmark for any surge in spending in the wake of announcements at COP21 in Paris by consortia of governments and private investors, led by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

National trends

China was again by far the largest investor in clean energy in 2015, increasing its dominance with a 17% increase to $110.5bn, as its government spurred on wind and solar development to meet electricity demand, limit reliance on polluting coal-fired power stations and create international champions.

Second was the US, which invested $56bn, up 8% on the previous year and the strongest figure since the era of the ‘green stimulus’ policies in 2011. Money-raising by quoted ‘yieldcos’, plus solid growth in investment in new solar and wind projects, supported the US total.

Europe again saw lower investment in 2015, at $58.5bn, down 18% on 2014 and its weakest figure since 2006. The UK was by far the strongest market, with investment up 24% to $23.4bn. Germany invested $10.6bn, down 42% on a move to less generous support for solar and, in wind, uncertainty about how a new auction system will work from 2017. France saw an even bigger fall in investment, of 53% to $2.9bn.

Brazil’s clean energy investment slipped 10% to $7.5bn in 2015, while India’s gained 23% to $10.9bn, the highest since 2011 but a far cry for the figures needed to implement the Modi government’s ambitious plans. Japan saw investment rise 3% to $43.6bn, on the back of a continuing PV boom. In Canada, clean energy investment fell 43% to $4.1bn, while in Australia, it edged up 16% to $2.9bn.

A number of “new markets” together committed tens of billions of dollars to clean energy last year. These include Mexico ($4.2bn, up 114%), Chile ($3.5bn, up 157%), South Africa ($4.5bn, up 329%) and Morocco ($2bn, up from almost zero in 2014).

Africa and the Middle East are two regions with big potential for clean energy, given their growing populations, plentiful solar and wind resources and, in many African countries, low rates of electricity access. In 2015, these regions combined saw investment of $13.4bn, up 54% on the previous year.

Note: Following minor revisions to prior year totals to reflect additional deal information, Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s historical series for global clean energy investment is: $61.9bn in 2004, $88bn in 2005, $128.3bn in 2006, $174.9bn in 2007, $205.6bn in 2008, $207.3bn in 2009, $273.7bn in 2010, $318.3bn in 2011, $297bn in 2012, $271.9bn in 2013, $315.9bn in 2014 and $328.9bn in 2015.

Global clean energy investment 2004-15, $bn

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Join the conversation on Twitter around BNEF’s Clean Energy Investment numbers: #BNEF2015

[1] Large hydro-electric projects of more than 50MW are not included in this asset finance figure or in total clean energy investment. However, BNEF’s estimate is that $43bn of large hydro projects reached “final investment decision” worldwide in 2015.

Jennifer MacDonald
Bloomberg New Energy Finance
+44 203 525 9332

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