The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published the fifth edition of Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment, finding investment in solar energy jumped 52% to €117 billion ($147 billion) in 2011, attracting nearly twice as much as wind.
A massive increase in solar power helped renewable energy investments surge to a record €204 billion ($257 billion), despite falling equipment prices and severe budgetary restrictions.
Investment last year reached more than six times the level for 2004 and almost twice the total investment seen in 2007, the last year before the global financial crisis.
However, the 17% year-on-year increase in investment was markedly down on the 37% growth recorded in 2010 and the €204 billion ($257 billion) if new spending fell short of the €240 billion ($302 billion) invested in new fossil fuel capacity, bringing to an end a period during which renewable energy attracted the bulk of new energy investment.
This rise helped to add some 30GW (GigaWatt) of capacity over the year, a huge 74% increase on the global total, which now stands at 69GW. It also meant solar photovoltaic accounted for more capacity additions in the EU than any other technology for the first time ever.
Across Europe, renewables as a whole accounted for more than 71% of total new electricity capacity additions in 2011, swelling renewables total share of electricity capacity to over 31%.
Worldwide, renewable energy sources have grown to supply almost 17% of global final energy consumption, fairly evenly split between modern renewable technology and traditional biomass burning activities, according to the Renewables 2012 Global Status Report. In total, almost half of the estimated 208GW of electricity capacity added globally during the year was in renewables.