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Clean Energy Investment Surges to Record in 2010

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Finance and investments in clean energy rose globally in 2010 to set a record of $243 billion, a whopping 30% increase over 2009. But the U.S., far from being a leader in the burgeoning field, fell to third place as China took the top spot once again.

According to data from the Pew Charitable Trusts, China set its own record with $54.4 billion in investments in 2010, up 39% from the year before and easily outdistanced its second-place competitor, Germany, which increased its own investments 100%, to a total of $41.2 billion. The U.S. lagged behind with a total of $34 billion. It lost the top slot in 2008 and has yet to regain the lead.

But the U.S. is far from the worst performer; the U.K., among G20 nations, has fallen the farthest, from 5th to 13th with the report indicating that uncertainty about clean energy policies is encouraging investors to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew's Clean Energy Program, said in a statement, "The clean energy sector is emerging as one of the most dynamic and competitive in the world, witnessing 630% growth in finance and investments since 2004. Countries like China, Germany and India were attractive to financers because they have national policies that support renewable energy standards, carbon reduction targets and/or incentives for investment and production and that create long-term certainty for investors."

Italy moved up from 8th place to 4th, garnering $13.9 billion in financing for clean energy programs in 2010. It is the first nation to reach grid parity—cost-effectiveness—for solar energy. India, too, substantially bettered its standing, moving up into the top 10 for the first time with $4 billion in financing, a 25% increase over 2009.

Other findings in the report included:

  • Europe led by region, attracting $94.4 billion in investments; Germany was responsible for $41.2 billion and Italy for $13.9 billion
  • China led the Asia/Oceania region, which continued to rise sharply bringing in $82.8 billion, a 33% increase over 2009
  • While investment growth in the Americas rose 35%, the region still came in a distant third with $65.8 billion
  • Small-scale residential solar investments boomed in the G20, adding 100% and coming in at $56.4 billion, with Germany accounting for almost half that; it is followed by Japan, France, Italy and the U.S.
  • China accounted for more than a quarter of the world’s total installed generating capacity of 388 gigawatts; that total was reached by an agglomeration of wind, small hydro, biomass, solar, geothermal and marine.