Renewables investment up in 2010—but mainly because of China
21 Jul 2011
Global investment in large-scale renewables jumped 32 percent in 2010, compared with 2009, a reason to be glad. But something that champions of green energy don’t point out is that, in the world outside of China, large-scale renewables investment actually fell.
My figures come from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, via the United Nations Environment Programme’s new report, “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment.”
China is deservedly proud of its meteoric rise in renewables investment, taking the top spot in 2010, above Germany and the U.S. However, if richer countries are going to come anywhere near replacing most fossil fuels with renewables, they are going to have to achieve consistent, high growth in renewables investments, as the International Energy Agency pointed out in April in their “Clean Energy Progress Report.”
Here’s another view on investment, which in this case includes small-scale projects—mainly residential solar.
(The UNEP report didn’t break down the numbers for small-scale renewables investment in the same way, so I had to group it differently—by developing vs developed countries. The large-scale projects are mainly wind, and small-scale investments are mainly residential solar.)
When including small-scale renewables, the picture looks more hopeful, since residential solar grew fast in 2010, with the capacity installed last year double of what it was in 2009. But overall investment in richer countries still grew only slowly, compared with what’s needed to achieve ambitious targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
If the recession of 2008-2009 was just a temporary slowdown and then growth were to get “back on track” again quickly, then I wouldn’t be too worried. But with the richer countries’ economies still very fragile, I think we could see weak growth in renewables as well for a while to come.
The big challenge, it seems to me, is how to make renewables grow quickly in a country even when the economy is ailing. That is, can we manage to continue with an unprecedented energy transition despite hard times?