The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) just released a comprehensive global report, and the first country by country ranking, of clean energy technology sales.
The clean energy sector is on the verge of becoming the third largest sector in the world now. The report — Clean Economy, Living Planet – Building Strong Clean Energy Technology Industries — finds that Denmark is currently the leading country in clean energy sales (relative to GDP), Brazil is second and Germany is third (the top three in absolute terms are Germany, the US and Japan).
With the sector booming, there is much opportunity for growth in these countries and others now. The report delves into how the countries currently leading the world got to the top and makes a short list of best practices.
Clean energy technology sales were about $921 billion in 2007 (€630 billion), but are expected to become about $2339 billion per year (€1600 billion) in 2020. At that volume, the sector is expected to only be behind automobiles and electronics in global sales. This is even without a strong, binding deal in Copenhagen.
Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF’s global climate initiative, says: “This is the clean economy growth happening now with only a partial Kyoto protocol international framework supporting clean energy development, patchy national support for green energy and huge subsidies to fossil fuel use.”
I think the growth in the future is liable to skyrocket with more and more countries getting serious about stopping human-induced catastrophic climate change. Plus, clean energy is an economic benefit for countries as it creates more jobs for the countries’ citizens.
Donald Pols, Head of the Climate Programme at WWF-Netherlands, says: “Clearly, from a national perspective there is much to gain and nothing to lose from investing in clean energy.”
Where do the US and the UK fit into this matter? And what are their and other countries’ best chances for becoming industry leaders?
The current rankings put the US 18th according to GDP (2nd in absolute terms) and the UK is 19th. Australia “squandered an early technical lead in solar energy” and is 28th.
Spain is 4th relative to GDP, Finland is 5th and China 6th.
In absolute terms, the top ten countries are: 1. Germany, 2. the US, 3. Japan, 4. China, 5. Denmark, 6. Brazil, 7. Spain, 8. France, 9. the UK, 10. Korea.
How to Lead the World in Clean Energy Technology Sales
The WWF says that one of the best ways for countries to take a larger share of the growing sector, especially the US and the UK, is for governments to “support such domestic markets with subsidies, renewables targets and procurement policies.”
In an analysis of the top four countries (in GDP-relative terms), the researchers found that these four countries included the following:
• Early and consistent government support over the innovation cycle;
• High investment in sectors with a strong domestic fit; and
• Strong home markets for Clean Energy Technology applications.
The ranking the report produced reflects a country’s “ability to produce and sell products and services that reduce CO2 emissions.” Anything that advances that, should give a country a significant financial boost in the years to come. Identifying the best approach for each country or location — it’s “competitive advantage” — is important. For example, Brazil is currently doing well because of its bio-ethanol production, Denmark because of its wind energy technology and insulation dominance, and Germany is doing well in various clean energy technologies because of its strong background in building machines and equipment.
Some leading sub-sectors in clean energy growth worldwide from 2000-2008 were solar (53% growth a year), biodiesel (31%) and wind (24%).
Leading markets overall in 2008 were wind energy (29% of the global market) and biofuels (27%). Insulation accounted for 13% and PV Solar for 12%. The US was 3rd in biofuels sales and the UK was 5th in insulation, but they and others on the lists did not compare to the leaders in those markets (Brazil–biofuels and Denmark–insulation).
Which technology will lead in the future is still uncertain, but countries that know how to lead might be the ones that determine that.
Specific best practices the report recommends for all countries are:
• Launch Technology Action Programs that develop a single technology
from research to demonstration. This will make government support
more consistent and bridge the gap between academia and industry.
• Central banks should encourage the integration of CO2 risk into financial
models to facilitate a shift towards “clean” investments. More capital
must also be raised for seed investment in Clean Energy Technology
• Develop a strong home market for Clean Energy Technology applications
by influencing the purchasing decisions of government, business and
consumers through government procurement, greater stability in (policies
on) sustainable energy subsidies and tax differentiation.
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Image Credit 1: tochis via flickr under a Creative Commons license
Image Credit 2: Per Foreby via flickr under a Creative Commons license
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