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Exclusive: SEB Strategy head expects investments in renewables to hit $600bn this year

Thomas Thygesen told ESG Insight that "this year could see the most progress yet made on the road to net zero."

There are many reasons to be positive about the energy transition outlook in the year ahead, according to industry insider Thomas Thygesen.

The head of strategy at SEB acknowledges the war in Ukraine led to an inevitable short-term surge in fossil fuel production, but Europe is now beginning to see longer-term investment catalysed by the energy crisis.

In fact, Thygesen shared with ESG Insight he expects this to lead to total investment in renewables of nearly $600bn in 2023.

Sustainable debt markets, relieved of the headwinds of high interest rates and unpredictable energy prices, will also stabilise, he said, referring to SEB’s latest The Green Bond Report.

“This year could see the most progress yet made on the road to net zero, and what more needs to be done if we are to fully decarbonize by 2050,” Thygesen said.

“2022 was a major turning point in the energy transition.”

Thomas Thygesen

“On the one hand it has been a year with tremendous challenges that exposed the shortcomings of the existing energy infrastructure,” he explained.

“At the same time, it is also likely to go down in history as a political and economic watershed: the year when an accelerated transition truly began after a lost decade of stagnation and the world finally started aligning short-term investment with long-term climate-related objectives,” Thygesen continued.


Global renewable energy investing has increased by almost 50% since the start of this decade.

Despite the challenges faced in 2022, Thygesen expects total investment in renewables to have reached a record of more than $460bn – an increase of 15% from 2021 levels.

As Europe and the US ramp up investment, we expect this number to jump to $600bn in 2023, a year-on-year increase of 25%.

However, Thygesen tempers this optimism: “While the surge in renewable energy investment in recent years is encouraging, we are still a long way from reaching a level that is consistent with full decarbonization by 2050.”

Annual investment of $4tn is required in the second half of this decade if this target is to be kept in sight, he stressed.

Sustainable Financing

The sustainable finance market struggled this year. However, if global debt markets stabilise and interest rate hikes slow down then the market should see significant growth in 2023.

It may not be until 2024 that the sustainable debt market returns to the exponential growth seen before the Covid-19 pandemic, Thygesen’s colleague Christopher Flensborg said.

The sustainable debt market will grow to USD 1.76tn, returning to 2021 issuance levels, based on growth in the US and Asia, with Europe catching up in the latter half of the year,” said Flensborg, Head of Climate and Sustainable Finance at SEB.

He added that “this outlook is strengthened further by “an upside due to the backlog from this year and the enormous investments required to expand and re-shape our energy system”.


Finally, the SEB execs singled out the latest world biodiversity summit, which has made progress to the preservation of biodiversity.

196 countries have committed to the “30×30 pledge”, an agreement to preserve 30% of ecosystems on land and sea by 2030 and restore 30% of the planet’s damaged ecosystems.

The pledge also involves a commitment of $500bn annually by 2030 to preserve and restore biodiversity.

Lina Apsehva, Climate Analyst at SEB, shared that “it is impossible to doubt the importance of the agreement reached in Montreal. Activists and NGO’s, who have long called on governments to act on the biodiversity front, have also welcomed the deal.”

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