New research on clean energy financing in the Group of Twenty (G-20) nations released by The Pew Charitable Trusts shows that investment grew to a record $263 billion in 2011, a 6.5 percent increase over the previous year, with the United States beating out China in the race to secure private clean energy finances and investment.
The U.S. attracted $48 billion in clean energy investment in 2011, a 42 percent increase over the previous year. As a result, the U.S. saw an addition of 6.7 gigawatts (GW) of wind and, for the first time, more than 1 GW of solar energy, enough to power 800,000 homes. By the end of the year, total U.S. installed renewable energy capacity topped 93 GW, second only to China, but this position will be difficult to hold with the expiry of Treasury grants and the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee programs.
“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. “And yet, the 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.”
Globally, the combination of falling clean energy technology prices coupled with growing investments saw an acceleration of clean energy generating capacity by a record 83.5 GW in 2011, bringing the global total to 565 GW.
Experts believe that with solar and wind technologies becoming more cost-competitive, renewable energy will become the preferred electric generating capacity for emerging economies. 2011 saw G-20 investments in solar continue to rise, increasing 44 percent to $128 billion, making solar the leading technology for clean energy investment for the second year in a row. This increase offset a 15 percent decline in investments for both wind and energy efficiency in 2011.
“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.”
Overall clean energy investment continued to grow, with China attracting $45.5 billion, spurring the deployment of 20 GW of wind power, the most of any nation. Germany ranked third for the second year in a row among the G-20 members with $30.6 billion and 7.4 GW of solar power installed, while Italy attracted $28 billion and deployed a world record of nearly 8 GW of solar power.