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Boom To Bust: Europe’s Renewables Industry Falls Into Rapid Decline

Fiona Harvey, The Guardian

Europe’s once world-beating clean technology industry has fallen into a rapid decline, with investment in low-carbon energy last year plummeting to its lowest level in a decade.

The plunge in European fortunes comes as renewable energy is burgeoning around the world, with China in particular investing heavily.

As recently as 2010, Europe made up 45% of global clean energy investment, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), which examines the sector. But after peaking at $132bn in 2011, investment in the EU plunged by more than half, to 18% of the global total, or $58bn, in 2015.

Michael Liebreich, chairman of the BNEF board, said the global financial crisis and its aftermath were to blame only in part. “Europe’s failure to respond [to the crisis was a factor and] global investors, scared about the survival of the euro, had plenty of reason to hesitate about putting money into euro-dominated clean energy projects,” he said.

But he also pointed to mistakes made by policymakers in member states, which he said had created a “boom-bust” cycle by initially showing strong support for renewables then rapidly rowing back as they feared the expense of successful subsidies. […]

Prospects for the struggling EU clean energy industry look poor overall, said analysts. The best hope of a revival is likely to be a return of political commitment to the sector, but that looks unlikely in the short term, even in the wake of the landmark climate change agreement signed in Paris last December.

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