US$263 billion. This was the amount of money invested in alternative energy in 2011, according to research by The Pew Charitable Trusts. One of the findings of the research is that the US is once again the leader of the clean energy race, having reclaimed the top spot from China, the leader since 2009. Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and India were also among the nations that most successfully attracted private investments last year.
“Clean energy investment, excluding research and development, has grown by 600 percent since 2004, on the basis of effective national policies that create market certainty,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program. “This increase was due in part to the number of countries that have implemented effective national policies to support the clean energy market. In the United States, which attracted $48 billion last year, investors took advantage of the country’s stimulus programs before they expired at the end of 2011, as well as the production tax credit for electricity from renewable energy, which is to end this December.”
Solar power was one of the big growers in 2011: its production increased globally by 44 percent. It attracted $128 billion and accounted for more than half of all clean energy investment among members of the G-20 group, the group of the 20 major economies of the world (19 countries plus the European Union). A sharp price decrease drove the expansion of solar power as solar modules dropped by half in the past 12 months. Wind prices also went down in 2011.
The combination of falling prices and growing investments accelerated installation of clean energy generating capacity by a record 83.5 gigawatts (GW) in 2011. Almost 30 GW of new solar and 43 GW of wind power were deployed. Renewable power generating capacity, at 565 GW globally, was nearly 50 percent more than installed nuclear generating capacity in 2010.
“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.”
China attracted $45.5 billion in clean energy investment, which spurred deployment of 20 GW of wind power, the most of any nation. Germany ranked third among the G-20 with $30.6 billion and 7.4 GW of solar power installed.
Italy received $28 billion in clean energy financing last year, an increase of 38.4 percent from 2010, enabling deployment of a record of nearly 8 GW of solar generating capacity. Over the last five years, no G-20 country has experienced higher growth rates than Italy, which led the world with investment levels relative to the size of its economy.
India’s clean energy sector continued to flourish in 2011, with investment up 54 percent to $10.2 billion. India’s “National Solar Mission,” with a goal of 20 GW of power installed by 2020, helped drive the sevenfold jump in this type of energy, to $4.2 billion. Wind received $4.6 billion, and an additional 2.8 GW of capacity was installed during the year.
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