Top 10 Clean Energy Stories of 2011 (with Charts)

What an odd year. While businesses around the world were making record level investments in renewables and efficiency, a growing number of conservative politicians and members of the American media punditry — lead by the outrageously ignorant “reporting” by Fox News — have been foolishly projecting (even cheering on) the demise of the sector.

Aside from the mind-boggling disparity between the science and politics of climate change, I’ve never seen such a large gap between perception and what’s actually happening on the ground.

Of course, we can’t ignore the enormous challenges — from cheap natural gas to relentless competition in manufacturing — that will lead to the death of many of the companies we know today. That is part of the natural (and sometimes violent) shake-out we can expect to see in years to come.

However, in order to add to our “climate solutions menu” on this site and cut through some of the recent political attacks, we’ve added more stories on the positive trends in clean energy. Here are some of our favorites from the last year (with some of our best clean energy charts of the year):

Clean Energy Stunner: Renewable Power Tops Fossil Fuels for First Time

Even with a severe financial crisis in Europe and the continued malaise in the U.S., renewable energy surpassed fossil fuels for the first time in new power-plant investments in 2011.

Solar is Ready Now: ‘Ferocious Cost Reductions’ Make Solar PV Competitive

This great series of charts shows just how cost-competitive solar photovoltaics have become with new coal and nuclear plants in the U.S.

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Adds 16,000 Jobs and $1.6 Billion in Value to Northeast Economies, Study Finds

While RGGI was being implemented, conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity claimed the regional cap and trade program would drive rates up 90%. An independent analysis shows that after three years, the program has set a course for $1.2 billion in ratepayer savings.

Pension Funds and Big Companies to Invest Over $1.6 Billion in Energy Efficiency Projects

This year saw a couple record-setting, private-sector investments in efficiency, proving once again that the biggest companies in the world see enormous value in reducing energy.

Google Map Reveals Massive Geothermal Potential Nationwide, “Effectively an Unlimited Supply” Says Chu

The geothermal industry has had its share of troubles financing and building projects in the last couple of years. But a new Google-funded map shows that technically exploitable geothermal resources in the U.S. are equivalent to 10 times our current coal capacity.

Green Jobs Reach 2.7 Million: The “Clean Economy” Starts Delivering on its Promise of High-Wage Jobs, Brookings Finds

Despite what we hear from politicians who call green jobs “progaganda,” a Brookings Institute report released this summer showed “torrid” growth in high-paying, export-heavy green jobs around the U.S.

Google Phases Out Clean Energy R&D in Favor of Deployment, Citing the “Compelling” Cost Reductions in Solar PV

With over $915 million in clean energy investments to date, Google is emerging was one of the leading players in renewables and efficiency. In order to make a more immediate impact on the market, the tech giant has switched its focus from R&D to deployment.

Solar Stunner: America is a $1.9 Billion Exporter of Solar Products

With a high-profile trade war against the Chinese brewing in the solar market, it’s often forgotten that the U.S. is actually a net exporter of solar products to China and the rest of the world. With 73 cents out of every dollar spent on a solar installation staying within the U.S., this sector is providing immense domestic value.

What Free Market? Subsidies Have Always Been a Big Part of Energy Industry, New Report Shows

Opponents of strategic government investments in clean energy seem to forget the past. A report on historic government investments showed that the federal commitment to oil and gas was five times greater than the commitment to renewables during the first 15 years of a subsidy’s life.

Polling Reveals That Being Anti-Clean Energy is Bad Politics

Anyone watching the presidential primaries has seen an astonishing reversal from candidates on climate science and support of clean energy. It turns out, that negative rhetoric can actually have negative consequences for candidates.

See any we’ve missed — either on Climate Progress or on other sites? Tell us what your top stories are in the comments section.

4 Responses to Top 10 Clean Energy Stories of 2011 (with Charts)

  1. Dr. Kevin Anderson of the Univ. of Manchester presented earlier this year a down-to-earth and sobering assessment of our GW situation. He strips away the political cover and goes into the realistic and difficult situation we are already in. This 50 minutes presentation must be watched by any one who cares abort GW.

    Here is one of his key observations:
    … Our key goal was to limit the average global temperature to 2 degrees C. This is unlikely with the little progress to date and inability to speed up drastically CO2 reductions. Some suggest that we need to look at the possibility of 4 degrees.
    “ There is a widespread view that a 4 degree C future is incompatible with an organised global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of the eco-systems & has a high probability of not being stable (i.e. 4 degree C would be an interim temperature on the way to a much higher equilibrium level)

    Climate Change, Going Beyond the Dangerous:

  2. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Very nice overview. And the growing gap between perception (of some) and reality is nowhere better illustrated than by the dramatic difference between the stance of Republican candidates and the general population in the polling reported.

    Shows you what happens when you narrow your ‘panorama of social ties’ and succumb to the peer pressure of that narrow slice. But their followers will be severely disappointed if any of them get up to be Pres. Once there, they will have to respond to a much wider constituency even though retaining a Republican flavour, ME

  3. fj says:

    all great stuff.

    marching orders to attack accelerating climate change at wartime speed from the president would be nice.

  4. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Excellent post. Very informative and interesting.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    Wind Energy Expert