More investment went into solar energy than any other power source last year, according to new research.

The renewable source attracted $160.8bn in investment, with a record 98GW of new solar capacity installed, according to a new report from UN Environment, Frankfurt School – UNEP Collaborating Centre and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Solar panels
This means solar accounted for 57% of the total for all renewables, excluding large hydro, of $279.8bn. In comparison new investment in coal and gas-fired power was estimated at $103bn last year.

A record 157GW of renewable energy projects were commissioned last year – up from 143GW in 2016 and far out-stripping the 70GW of fossil fuel generating capacity added – after adjusting the closure of some existing plants.

Developing economies, including China, Brazil and India, committed $177bn for renewables last year – that’s up 20 per cent compared to $103bn for developed nations.

China contributing more than half of the total, or 53 GW, according to the report.

The falling costs of solar electricity and to some extent wind power is said to continue to drive deployment.

UN Environment Head Erik Solheim said: “The extraordinary surge in solar investment shows how the global energy map is changing and more importantly, what the economic benefits are of such a shift.

“Investment in renewables bring more people into the economy, they deliver more jobs, better quality jobs and better paid jobs. Clean energy also means less pollution, which means healthier, happier development.”

It wasn’t all positive. Europe’s investment in renewables plunged by 36 percent to $40.9 billion due to factors including the end of subsidies in some countries for solar and wind and lower technology costs.

“In Europe the fall in investment is strongly driven by Germany and the UK,” said Ulf Moslener, lead editor of the report at the Frankfurt School.