China Solidifies Itself as Clean Energy Powerhouse

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According to a new report from Pew Charitable Trusts, China has solidified its lead over the U.S. in clean energy* investment and installed clean energy capacity. With record private clean energy investments in 2010, China ranks first for the second straight year, surpassing the U.S.

The Pew press release states that 2010 was a record year for clean energy finance and investment, growing 30% from 2009 to $243 billion. China’s record $54.4 billion in investments represents a 39% increase from the previous year. Germany also increased investments, surpassing the U.S. and moving into second place with $41.2 billion. The U.S., which maintained the top spot until 2008, dropped to 3rd place with $34 billion.

In addition to China and Germany, other countries such as Italy and India drastically improved their investments, attracting significantly higher clean energy investment than in previous years. According to Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew's Clean Energy Program, countries like China, India and Germany are attractive to financers because “they have national policies that support renewable energy standards, carbon reduction targets and/or incentives for investment and production that create long-term certainty for investors.”

Not only does China lead in clean energy investment but they also surpassed the United States in installed clean energy capacity and lead the world in wind turbine and solar module production.

“In less than three years, China has emerged as the world’s clean energy powerhouse and is firmly entrenched as the leading destination for private investment and manufacturing of related equipment. China is on track to surpass key targets, including deploying 150 gigawatts of wind and 20 gigawatts of solar by 2020. China’s commitment to long-term clean energy policies is paying off,” states Cuttino.

According to Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, “China is likely to maintain its position at the top of the leader-boards for clean energy investment for the next few years. China has put into place the world’s most ambitious policies to support the sector, and is throwing a huge amount of money at it.”

“The clean energy sector is emerging as one of the most dynamic and competitive in the world, witnessing 630 percent growth in finance and investments since 2004," states Cuttino. This is not a sector the U.S. can afford to fall behind in. With such enormous economic growth potential, the U.S. needs to institute the national policies that attract investors (i.e. renewable energy standards and carbon reduction targets) and create long-term certainty.

The U.S.  also needs to continue funding innovation for the rapidly growing clean energy sector. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives’ recently passed FY11 budget bill (Continuing Resolution, H.R. 1) is taking the country in the opposite direction. Instead of supporting what is destined to become the next major economic boom, the Republican controlled House wants to extensively cut funding for clean energy R&D, energy efficiency, oil use reduction and renewable energy. This will only increase America’s decline in the clean energy sector. 

*Clean energy in the report includes wind, small-hydro, biomass and waste-to-energy, solar, geothermal and marine.

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