Clean energy investments have caught up to fossil fuels

It’s Wednesday, February 1, and clean energy investments reached a new milestone in 2022.

An image of a windmill and solar panel along with a smokestack

The world spent a lot of money on fossil fuels last year — but it spent just as much trying to replace them. According to a new analysis from the research firm BloombergNEF, global investments in renewable energy technologies surged to $1.1 trillion in 2022, roughly matching investments in coal, oil, and gas for the first time.

It is also the first time global investment in the transition away from fossil fuels rose past $1 trillion, representing a 31 percent increase from 2021. Solar and wind accounted for about $495 billion of the total, followed by EVs and charging infrastructure at $466 billion. Other sectors like hydrogen, batteries, and electric heating made up a much smaller piece of the pie but still saw record levels of investment, driven in part by improving technologies and policies to encourage their adoption.

BloombergNEF called the numbers “historic,” saying the shift toward investment in clean energy was “unlikely to be reversed, as low-carbon industries continue to grow.”

China led the world by far, accounting for about half of the world’s total clean energy investments last year. The United States came in a distant second, at $141 billion of investment, although BloombergNEF said new climate legislation — such as including President Joe Biden’s landmark climate spending bill — could drive a “rapid acceleration” in the next few years. Germany, France, and the United Kingdom were the next runners-up for energy transition investments. (If treated as a single state, the EU would have taken second place with $180 billion in investments.)

Despite the record numbers, global investments in power grids and the energy transition need to grow even faster to tame global warming. According to BloombergNEF, putting the world on track for net-zero greenhouse gas investments by 2050 will require investments to reach an average of $4.5 trillion annually between 2023 and 2030. By the 2040s, these needs will reach $7.87 trillion a year, mostly to decarbonize the world’s transportation systems.

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