US Slips Into Third Place in Clean Energy for First Time

Until 2008, the U.S. held the top position in the world in private investment of clean energy, but its position is deteriorating.

In 2010, China took the top spot, followed by Germany.

"The United States’ position as a leading destination for clean energy investment is declining because its policy framework is weak and uncertain," says Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program, which released a report today.

"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."

Globally, 2010 clean energy finance and investments grew by 30% to a record $243 billion. The US received $34 billion in equity last year, a 51% 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 remains the global leader in clean energy innovation, receiving 75% 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," says Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

PEW’s report shows the US is now 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 US in installed renewable capacity, and the US 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).

Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? 2010 Edition examines the key financial, investment and technological trends in relation to the clean energy portion of the world’s leading economies. The G-20 accounts for 90% of global clean energy finance and investment.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Worldwide clean energy investment and finance has grown 630% 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% increase over the previous year.
  • The Americas also saw investment grow 35%, 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% to $56.4 billion. Germany accounts for more than half the total, followed by Japan, France, Italy and the US.
  • Installed generating capacity increased to 388 gigawatts from wind, small-hydro, biomass, solar, geothermal and marine, with China accounting for more than 25% of the global total.

Read the report:

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