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Pew: U.S. is ‘winning clean energy race’

On April 12, the Pew Charitable Trusts reported that global clean energy finance and investment rose by 6.5 percent to $236 billion in 2011.

“Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? 2011 Edition” looked at financial, investment, and technological trends in the cleantech sector for Group of 20 (G-20) countries. The G-20 is the economic council of the world’s most developed economies.

The report noted that the biggest winners in the tumultuous clean energy sector have been consumers, who benefit from the overall falling prices. According to Pew, price competition was the “defining characteristic” of the clean energy industry last year, “spurring investment and deployment, increasing global clean energy capacity, and creating opportunities for innovators, entrepreneurs, and workers.”

The review found that the G-20 countries make up 95 percent of all global investments in clean energy, but that developing nations will see much growth in the coming decade.

G-20 Investment by Technology 2004-2011 (billions) Credit: Pew Charitable Trusts

Solar energy was the biggest performer, with investment reaching $128 billion – a 44 percent increase from 2010 – thanks to the aforementioned price declines. Almost 30 GW of new solar projects were installed worldwide.

“The clean energy sector received its trillionth dollar of private investment just before the end of 2011, demonstrating significant growth over the past eight years,” said Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Pew’s research partner.

“Solar installations drove most of the activity last year as the falling price of photovoltaic modules, now 75 percent lower than three years ago, more than compensated for weakening clean energy support mechanisms in a number of parts of the world.”

The U.S. attracted $48 billion in investment, 42 percent more than 2010, bring the U.S. to the head of global clean energy investment for the first time since 2009. The past two years, China attracted the most investment worldwide.

This increased investment spurred the installation of a record 1 GW of solar energy in 2011, enough to power 800,000 homes.

“In 2011, the global clean energy sector grew again, the U.S. reclaimed its lead as the top destination for private investment, and consumers reaped the rewards of significantly reduced prices for clean energy technologies, such as solar panels, which are now nearly 50 percent cheaper than a year ago,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program.

But despite the good showing last year, the report found the U.S. will be “hard-pressed” to sustain the success, thanks to the expiration of the 1603 Treasury grant program and the DOE’s loan guarantee program.

“[T]he yo-yo effect of U.S. clean energy policy hurts the ability of the United States to consistently compete and turn U.S.-led innovation into manufacturing, deployment, and export opportunities. Creative, stable, and transparent policies remain a critical signal to private investors,” said Cuttino.

Read the full report here.


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