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Analysts expect trillions of dollars’ more investment in wind and solar technologies in the coming years. "Investing even the same amount of money every year but getting far more out of it is hard to ignore."

LISTEN TO ARTICLE Photographer: Daniel Rodrigues/Bloomberg Photographer: Daniel Rodrigues/Bloomberg

For the fifth year in a row, global investment in clean energy topped $300 billion, according to Bloomberg NEF. 2018’s financing for new power-generation projects, research and development, and public-markets activity was up fivefold from 15 years ago, when Germany introduced its first major subsidy and policy supports for clean energy.

Rising, Then Steady Global new financial investment in clean energy per year Source: Bloomberg NEF

That’s still progress, but if such investment over the past five years was essentially unchanged, is it good news for efforts to decarbonize the electricity sector?

Wind and solar make up the vast majority of all new clean-energy power generation now being built. The asset financing to construct those wind and solar plants makes up the vast majority of all investment in clean energy – far more than R&D or public-markets activity. Examining that investment and the assets being built with it reveals what’s actually going on in the world’s changing power sectors.

When we rebase asset financing, and assets built each year, to the year 2004, we can define three eras in clean energy. Bloomberg NEF founder Michael Liebreich once described these eras as suc...

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