Clean energy investment is now nearly 2x that of fossil fuels – here’s why

For every $1 spent on fossil fuels globally, there’s now a $1.70 investment in clean energy – yet five years ago, the ratio was 1:1, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Global investment in clean technologies is on course to rise to $1.7 trillion in 2023, while slightly more than $1 trillion will be invested in fossil fuels, according to the IEA’s “World Energy Investment 2023” report.

The IEA defines clean technologies as renewables, EVs, nuclear, grids, storage, low-emissions fuels, efficiency improvements, and heat pumps, and it defines fossil fuels as coal, gas, and oil.

Annual clean energy investment is expected to rise by 24% between 2021 and 2023, driven by renewables and EVs, compared with a 15% rise in fossil fuel investment over the same period.

Further, solar investment is set to overtake oil production investment for the first time. Solar power spending in 2023 is forecast to achieve $382 billion, but investment in oil production is expected to be $371 billion.

Dave Jones, head of data insights at energy think tank Ember, said in a statement:

This crowns solar as a true energy superpower. It is emerging as the biggest tool we have for rapid decarbonization of the entire economy.

A number of factors have boosted clean energy investments, including periods of strong economic growth and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that caused volatile fossil fuel prices, which in turn mobilized European countries to switch to clean energy in order to create energy security. Pro-clean energy policies such as the US’s Inflation Reduction Act and similar initiatives in Europe, China, and other countries have also acted as catalysts.

However, fossil fuel investment needs to be reduced a lot faster, fossil fuel companies need to be held accountable for greenwashing – the oil and gas industry’s capital spending on low-emissions alternatives was less than 5% of its upstream spending in 2022 – and emerging and developing economies need more support to convert to clean energy.

So, we as a planet are going in the right direction. We just need to speed it up.

Read more: US wind and solar combined produced more electricity than coal in Q1 2023

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