The US has overtaken China as the world’s leading investor in clean energy developments, claimed a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) on Thursday – representing the first time that the country has beaten China since 2008.
In 2011, green energy investments in the US rose by 33 percent to $55.9 billion, while Chinese investments in the technology remained relatively unchanged for the year at $47.4 billion.
According to BNEF, “the US figure was achieved thanks in large part to support initiatives such as the federal loan guarantee programme and a Treasury grant programme”, though their ranking could fall again by the end of this year, due to the Treasury grant programme having already expired while the country’s principal remaining support measure for renewable energy, the Production Tax Credit, is scheduled to expire by the end of 2012 as well.
Spending in solar energy, in particular, had been the cause for a global rise in clean energy investments in 2011, with the total investment in solar technology worldwide jumping by 36 percent to $136.6 billion.
“The performance of solar is even more remarkable when you consider that the price of photovoltaic modules fell by close to 50 percent during 2011, and now stands 75 percent lower than three years ago, in mid-2008,” said BNEF’s chief executive Michael Liebreich.
“The cost of PV technology has fallen, but the volume of PV sold has increased by a much greater factor as it approached competitiveness with other sources of power.”
Related: Top Ten Global Solar Trends for 2011
In total, global investments in clean energy technology reached $260 billion in 2011, with wind power being the second most invested technology for the year at $79.4 billion.
“Overall, 2011 was a far better year for the clean energy industry than the press coverage would lead one to believe,” commented Liebreich.
Still, Liebreich warns that 2012 might pose a larger challenge for the clean energy industry as “the European financial crisis continuing to fester, and the supply chain works its way out of some fearsome over-capacity.”
“Rumours of the death of clean energy have been greatly exaggerated,” said Liebreich.
“We will be seeing a new generation of technology starting to hit the market, and we are expecting important announcements by some of the biggest energy and engineering companies in the world as they take advantage of current market conditions to establish themselves in the sector.”