United States slipped to third in clean energy race

China and Germany take lead as global investment reaches record $243 Billion in 2010

The U.S. competitive position in the clean energy sector is deteriorating, as the country slipped to third place in terms of the amount of private investment directed to the G-20 economies, according to a new report released today by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Until 2008, the U.S. had held the top spot, which is now firmly held by China. Globally, 2010 clean energy finance and investments grew by 30 percent to a record $243 billion.

That’s from the news release for new research released by The Pew Charitable Trusts.  The report, Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? 2010 Edition, uses data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Here’s more:

The United States received $34 billion in equity last year, a 51 percent increase from 2009. However, the gap with China, which attracted a record $54.4 billion, continues to widen. Germany also attracted more money than the U.S. with $41.2 billion, claiming the number two spot, up from third the previous year.

“The United States’ position as a leading destination for clean energy investment is declining because its policy framework is weak and uncertain,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program. “We are at risk of losing even more financing to countries like China, Germany and India, which have adopted strong policies such as renewable energy standards, carbon reduction targets and/or incentives for investment and production. In today’s global economic race, the United States can’t afford to be to be a follower in this sector.”

That China passed us a couple of years ago should have been a wake-up call (see Steven Chu on why China’s bid for clean energy leadership should be our “Sputnik Moment”).  Dropping to third behind Germany, though, should be equally worrisome.  It means U.S. clean energy manufacturing is being squeezed from every side.

Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, added, “The United States remains the global leader in clean energy innovation, receiving 75 percent of all venture capital investment in the sector, a total of $6 billion in 2010, but the U.S. has not been creating demand for deployment of clean energy. As a result it is losing out on opportunities to attract investment, create manufacturing capabilities and spur job growth. For example, worldwide, China is now the leading manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels.”

It should be clear that you’re not going to lead in clean energy job creation if you’re only the leader in venture capital investment.  That’s the tragic mistake groups like The Breakthrough Institute make when they attack those who support demand-pull efforts like clean energy standards (0r a serious carbon price) and say vast increases in clean energy R&D are the only acceptable policy for achieving clean energy leadership.

This research shows that the United States is in the middle of the pack on a variety of key clean energy indicators, including asset financing (an important barometer of clean energy deployment, manufacturing and job growth), installed renewable capacity and five-year growth rates. China led the G-20 in this type of financing with $47.3 billion, more than double the U.S. ($21 billion). China also surpassed the United States in installed renewable capacity. In addition, the United States trails leading countries in five-year rates of clean energy capacity additions, investment growth and intensity (a measure of investment dollars compared to gross domestic product).

Here are some more key findings

  • Worldwide clean energy investment and finance has grown 630 percent since 2004.
  • Regionally, Europe remained the leading recipient, attracting $94.4 billion, led by Germany ($41.2 billion) and Italy ($13.9 billion).
  • Italy ranked fourth, attracting $13.9 billion. It is the first country in the world to achieve grid parity, or cost-competitiveness, for solar energy.
  • The Asia/Oceania region, led by China, continued its sharp rise, attracting $82.8 billion, a 33 percent increase over the previous year.
  • The Americas also saw investment grow 35 percent, but as a region it remains a distant third, attracting $65.8 billion.
  • Investments in small-scale, residential solar in G-20 countries grew by 100 percent to $56.4 billion. Germany accounts for more than half the total, followed by Japan, France, Italy and the United States.
  • Installed generating capacity increased to 388 gigawatts from wind, small-hydro, biomass, solar, geothermal and marine, with China accounting for more than 25 percent of the global total.
  • 5 Responses to United States slipped to third in clean energy race

    1. Anne van der Bom says:

      The US is even more behind Germany & China if you take the size of the US economy into account.

    2. Prokaryotes says:

      The Race for the Industrial Revolution is in Full Swing, but wait someone is still standing at the starting line … a 500 pound gorilla is distracted by bananas.

    3. Ziyu says:

      I just wish Republicans would actually follow through on their mantra of “government get out of the way”. By ending all energy subsidies and streamlining regulations (seriously renewables always get tied down by NIMBY and other red tape), renewables would be far ahead. Of course, that talk about getting government out of the way only applies to fossil fuels and nuclear and only when it benefits them. Wouldn’t want those expensive subsidies cut now would we?

    4. BobG says:

      Evidently China is consideirng doubling its solar target in the wake of the Japan nuclear disaster.

    5. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

      Yes. China and Germany are racing ahead in Clean Energy investments. Already China is World leader in Wind Energy and Germany occupying the third position.

      Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India