US Falling Further Behind in Renewables Investment

Here is a story about a new Pew study that summarizes world investment in renewable energy.  The study documents that, while the US has made some big changes in the last few years, our country is not even in the top ten of the countries with the fastest growing renewable power sectors.

Here is the list:

Because Italy has made such significant investment in solar power in particular, solar power is now the cheapest electricity source in Italy.  Solar has reached “grid parity” there.  You can also see that Germany’s rate of installation, for quite a while in the early 2000s the fastest in the world, has slowed in the last five years as Asian countries’ rates have expanded rapidly.

While the US lags in rate of installation, the US did lead the world in overall investment in renewable power in 2011.  Solar power, largely homeowner and small business installations, makes up most of that investment.  Much of this investment, however, came because the energy sector is afraid that past incentives, particular federal incentives, won’t be renewed by US political leaders.

The new study also notes the rapid expansion of energy efficiency investment in 2011.

Energy efficiency has long been the under-appreciated but hardworking sibling in the clean energy family.  Energy efficiency is far more cost effective than renewable (or even conventional) energy generation, and has the capacity to meet at least half of our future energy needs.

In addition, the arguments that clean energy creates jobs are the strongest (and the criticisms the weakest) for energy efficiency. Those who argue that clean energy will destroy jobs base their arguments on the relatively high costs of some clean technologies relative to conventional energy.  While these arguments are weakening as solar and wind deployment gets cheaper, they have never been true for Energy Efficiency, which has always been cheaper than coal.

Efficiency is getting respect in the sense that venture capital and private equity(VC/PE), are increasingly flowing to the sector.  In 2011, the energy efficiency and other low carbon technologies accounted for 40 percent ($3.6 Billion) of VC/PE investment.  With luck, other types of investment will follow (as they often do) where VC/PE investment leads.

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