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Published on May 21st, 2010 | by Susan Kraemer


We're No. 11! USA! USA! USA!

May 21st, 2010 by  

A recent NRDC analysis of a Pew study found that the ten nations leading the world in government investment in renewable power have now passed the US by. The US had the 8th fastest growth over the last 5 years, trailing South Korea, China, Australia, France, India, the UK, and Turkey.


As a percentage of GDP, the most realistic comparison, our government investment lags the top ten. China’s clean energy investment is 0.39% of its GDP – which puts China in 3rd place, while the US invests only 0.13% of GDP in renewable energy development – in 11th place behind China, Spain, Brazil, the UK, and five other smaller nations.

At No. 11, the US comes in right after…   Mexico.

The drop in the relative investment percentage by the US has long been concealed by comparisons that compare apples to oranges, because they do not take into account the disparity in the sizes of the economies being compared. Europe, with an economy of $14.51 trillion is comparable to the US, with a $14.29 trillion economy.

The GDP of an individual nation in Europe is not comparable with ours.

Instead, we hear comparisons between the entire US and just one European nation,  for example, a Bloomberg headline like “US Overtakes Germany in Wind Power” mistakenly create the impression that we are No. 1.

But Germany’s GDP is under $3 trillion. The GDP of the US is $14.29 trillion.

In terms relative to each nations GDP, Spain actually invested five times more than the United States last year, and China, Brazil and the United Kingdom invested three times more, according to the NRDC analysis of the Pew study Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? Growth, Competition and Opportunity in the World’s Largest Economies (PDF).

The policies that the ten nations that beat us enacted to get clean energy moving is not so different from what we have in the US: just in some cities, counties or states. The most far reaching is the EU-wide  cap and trade market developed as a result of the EU signing Kyoto.

These policies include Renewable Energy Standards, Feed in Tariffs, green bonds (like SRECs) auto efficiency standards, government procurement, and the European Trading System cap and trade market.

Our failure to agree on real investment has real energy security implications for the US. Some nations are hurtling ahead in government infrastructure investment that will ensure that their populations have a more secure energy future than this nation. China for example, had 3% of the solar market in 2006. Four years later, China’s share is now 45%.

Spain, even with its current financial problems at home, went on to unleash globally the power of the renewable energy giants that their Feed-in Tariff policy built. Abengoa now dominates the solar thermal market globally.  Iberdrola was developed domestically – now it is the largest renewable energy operator in the world.

Image: Flikr User cranberries 


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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

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