The U.S. has surpassed China to reclaim the top spot in clean energy finance and investment, according to new research by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
According to the research, the U.S. attracted $48 billion in clean energy investment – a 42% increase over 2010. This helped propel the addition of 6.7 GW of wind power and, for the first time, more than 1 GW of solar energy.
The U.S. continued to be the top destination for venture capital and private equity investments, with $6 billion. Despite an overall decline in research and development (R&D), the U.S. accounted for 30% of total corporate research and development (R&D) and 31% of government R&D investments. However, the country trailed in asset finance, small-scale distributed capacity and a variety of other indicators, Pew Charitable Trusts notes.
Despite surpassing China in clean energy investment, the U.S. still trailed China in installed renewable energy capacity at the end of last year, with 93 GW.
The U.S. will be hard-pressed to sustain last year's success in the wake of now-expired Treasury grants and the Department of Energy's loan-guarantee programs, Pew says. In addition, the production tax credit is scheduled to expire at the end of this year.
‘In 2011, the global clean energy sector grew again, the U.S. reclaimed its lead as the top destination for private investment, and consumers reaped the rewards of significantly reduced prices for clean energy technologies, such as solar panels, which are now nearly 50 percent cheaper than a year ago,’ says Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew's clean energy program.
‘And yet, the yo-yo effect of U.S. clean energy policy hurts the ability of the United States to consistently compete and turn U.S.-led innovation into manufacturing, deployment and export opportunities," she continues. "Creative, stable and transparent policies remain a critical signal to private investors.’
The combination of falling clean energy technology prices and growing investments accelerated installation of clean energy generating capacity by a record 83.5 GW in 2011, bringing the total to 565 GW globally. This was nearly 50% more than installed nuclear power capacity worldwide at the end of last year.
China attracted $45.5 billion in clean energy investment, which spurred the deployment of 20 GW of wind power – the most of any nation.