Global Clean Energy Investments Leave Canada Behind

Wind Turbines by Moonlight

By Arman Kazemi

March 3, 2016

Global clean energy investment increased by seven per cent last year, according to a new report. Canada, however, has not kept up.

The Clean Energy Canada report has found that investments in renewable energy reached a record high of US$367 billion in 2015, despite upheavals in fossil fuel markets that have seen oil and gas prices plummet.

For many economies, including some of Canada’s most important trading partners, 2015 was a bullish year for clean energy investment.

At US$111 billion, China’s investment in clean energy was by far the largest of any single country. Its contribution to the clean energy market was up 17 per cent over 2014, accounting for almost a third of new investments in 2015.

At a distant second, the United States’ contribution of $56 billion was nevertheless up seven per cent, with Japan’s $44 billion coming third, an increase of three per cent over its 2014 figure.

Other notable investments came from Mexico, whose $4.2-billion investment marked a 114 per cent jump, and from India, which came in fifth with $10.9 billion, a 23 per cent increase.

Indeed, 2015 marked the first time developing countries outpaced the developed world in clean energy investment, with a total of $167 billion.

“Turmoil in fossil fuel markets led many analysts to suggest clean energy investment would similarly stall out,” Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada, wrote in the report. “But clean energy did compete, and it won.

“Once again, more money flowed into new renewable electricity than new power from fossil fuels.”

But Canada stood out in the report, thanks to a 46 per cent drop in clean energy investment, from $7.4 billion in 2014 to just $4 billion last year. Despite the decline, Canada remains eighth in the world in terms of absolute dollars invested.

The report cites Canada’s reliance on a “patchwork” of policies that vary from province to province and a “lack of overarching federal policy support” as contributing to the decline in investment.

Still, the new Liberal government’s promise of a national climate change strategy in the wake of the Paris Agreement may send a signal to the industry that it’s serious about clean energy.

This week, Prime Minister Trudeau is sitting down for a national climate talk with the premiers and indigenous leaders to establish a framework for bringing federal climate policy in line with provincial initiatives.

“This is really a wake-up call for Canada,” Merran Smith told the Canadian Press, referring to the meeting. “One thing they could commit to is a clean energy plan for Canada that makes real, tangible clean energy commitments.”