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Report: cleantech revenue up $58 billion in 2011

Global revenue for PV, wind power and biofuels increased 31 percent in 2011, according to the Clean Energy Trends 2012 report released yesterday.

The report, from clean-tech research and advisory firm Clean Edge, shows that revenue was $246.1 billion in 2011, up from $188.1 billion in 2010. Most of this growth was from increase wind and solar deployment.

But this expansion came in a year of continued economic stagnation, with falling prices putting pressure on manufacturers. And it was Solyndra’s high-profile bankruptcy – not the record growth – that put cleantech into the spotlight.

“Last year saw many in the clean-tech community caught off guard, as the industry became a modern-day whipping boy,” said Ron Pernick, Clean Edge co-founder and managing director.

“The attacks, offered up in sound bite-sized nuggets delivered more for impact than accuracy, overlooked the fact that many clean-energy technologies are becoming increasingly cost-competitive.”

The report found the global PV market rose to $91.6 billion in 2011, up by over $20 billion from the previous year. PV installations increased by almost 70 percent over the same time period. With PV module prices dropping by 40 percent from 2010 to 2011, installation growth significantly outpaced revenue growth.

“Clean tech isn’t withering on the vine as some would proclaim, but instead is continuing its rapid expansion,” said the report.

“There have been growing pains for many firms, with low-cost manufacturing in China and elsewhere giving U.S. and European manufacturers a not-soinsignificant run for their money, but the industry as a whole has continued to expand throughout the economic downturn of recent years.”

Looking Ahead

According to Clean Edge, this price decline will continue, with the the installed costs for PV falling to almost one-third of current levels by 2021. The market will continue to expand to $130.5 billion by 2021.

The report also projects that:

  1. in 13 states (Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) residential PV will be cost-competitive without subsidies by 2021.

  2. solar will become increasingly attractive with a likely explosion in a new breed of power providers (such as solar installers/financiers SolarCity, SunEdison, and SunRun) providing residential, commercial, and industrial customers with a hedge against fluctuating retail electricity rates tied to volatile prices of fossil fuels


Credit: Clean Energy Trends 2012 © Clean Edge


Clean Edge builds upon Bloomberg’s January finding that solar was seeing most growth out of all investments in renewables. A record 23.2 percent of U.S. venture capital investment went to clean technologies.

The analysis predicted trends that will expand cleantech deployment for the coming years, including:

  1. the military will be the leader in clean energy deployment

  2. Japan will see an expansion in renewables in a “post-nuclear future”

  3. growth in commercial building retrofits

  4. investment in waste-to-resource breakthroughs, and

  5. energy storage solutions for utility-scale cleantech

Clean Edge suggested policy changes that will support cleantech growth in the coming years. “The next few years, we believe, will be clearly defined by those nations that provide the infrastructure for the deployment of innovative and effective financing tools,” the report said.

“Just like Google and Warren Buffett, retail investors should be able to tap the relatively steady, reliable, and secure returns that can be offered by these types of clean-energy project investments.”

Read the full report here.

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