Report: Investment in biomass, waste-to-energy up 9% last year

By Erin Voegele | June 10, 2020

A report released by the UN Environment Programme, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre, and BloombergNEF on June 10 shows biomass and waste-to-energy received $123 billion in financing for new projects between 2010 and 2019. Biofuels received $28 billion over the same period.

The report, titled “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2020,” analyzes 2019 investments trends and clean energy commitments made by countries and corporations for the next decade. It also shows that that COVID-19 crisis has slowed deal-making in renewables in recent months and will impact investment levels in 2020.

According to the report, governments and companies around the world have committee to adding 826 gigawatts (GW) of new non-hydro renewable power capacity by 2030 at a likely cost of approximately $1 trillion. BNEF said that investment falls short of what would be need to limit world temperature increases to less than 2 degrees Celsius and is significantly less than the $2.7 trillion invested in renewable energy from 2010 through 2019.

Data included in the report shows global investment in biomass and waste projects grew by 9 percent in 2019, reaching $9.7 billion. That level of investment places biomass and waste-to-energy in third place among renewable energy sectors, following wind and solar, but ahead of small hydro, geothermal, biofuels and marine. BNEF notes there were strong pockets of activity in biomass and waste last year, notably in waste incineration plants in the U.K. and China. BNEF noted that $9.7 billion invested in biomass and waste-to-energy last year was in line with the sector’s five-year average, but well below the peak of $16 billion achieved in 2011.

Biofuels accounted for only $500 million in new investment last year, down 43 percent from 2018 and down significantly from the peak of $22.9 billion in 2007.

In China, biomass and waste-to-energy projects secured $1.5 billion in investments last year, up 2 percent when compared to 2018. The report notes that waste-to-energy is going through a dynamic period in China, with a string of incineration plants being built. The report cites official figures that show China added 7 gigawatts of biomass and waste capacity between 2015 and 2018. BNEF also noted the capital costs per MW for waste-to-energy plants in China is significantly lower than in the West.

In the U.S., biofuels saw only $320 million in investment last year, down 38 percent from 2018. Minimal investments were also reported for biomass and waste-to-energy. Biomass and waste-to-energy, however, attracted $3.1 billion in investment in Europe last year, up 12 percent. Biomass investment was also up significantly in Japan last year, at $2.6 billion, up 26 percent from 2018.

Research and development spending for renewable energy increased to $13.4 billion in 2019, up 1 percent when compared to 2018. Biofuels attracted $1.8 billion of that amount, or 13 percent of R&D spending.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the Frankfurt School—UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate and Sustainable Energy Finance website