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USA retains lead over China in renewable energy capacity

China took the lead from the United States last year for clean energy finance and investment, although the USA still leads in renewable energy capacity.

Clean energy has experienced investment growth of 230% since 2005, explains The Pew Charitable Trusts in its report, Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? The clean energy sector declined only 6.6% last year despite the financial downturn, when US$162 billion was invested in clean energy around the world.

Rebounding from a sharp downturn in late 2008 and early 2009, clean energy investments in the G-20 averaged US$32bn in each of the last three quarters of 2009. Many governments prioritised clean energy within their national economic recovery funding, and the bulk of this support will be felt over the next two years, with clean energy investments forecast to grow by 25% this year to US$200bn.

Accounting for 90% of global finance and investment, G-20 countries dominate the clean energy landscape, the report explains. Virtually all G-20 countries have seen investments grow by more than 50% over the last five years.

Pro-renewable countries are in stronger competitive position

China, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and other countries with strong, national policies to reduce global warming and incentivise the use of renewable energy are establishing stronger competitive positions in the clean energy economy, it adds.

“Nations seeking to compete effectively for clean energy jobs and manufacturing would do well to evaluate the array of policy mechanisms that can be employed to stimulate clean energy investment” such as China’s ambitious targets for wind and solar energy.

Policy, investment and business experts have noted that “the clean energy economy is emerging as one of the great global economic and environmental opportunities of the 21st century,” it explains.

“Local, state and national leaders in the United States and around the world increasingly recognise that safe, reliable, clean energy (solar, wind, bioenergy and energy efficiency) can be harnessed to create jobs and businesses, reduce dependence on foreign energy sources, enhance national security and reduce global warming pollution.”

Renewable energy capacity grows to 250 GW

Last year, installed renewable energy capacity increased to 250 GW, enough to power 75 million homes and equivalent to 6% of the global total, the report explains. The USA led in wind, biomass and geothermal capacity but was close to losing its top position in overall installed capacity as China surged forward.

“Despite pioneering development of numerous key solar technologies, the US lagged well behind G-20 leaders in installed solar capacity,” with Germany as the undisputed leader in solar energy.

Pew first documented the clean energy economy in the USA last June 2009 in its report The Clean Energy Economy: Repowering Jobs, Businesses & Investments Across America. That study found that clean energy was emerging as a vital new sector in the US economic landscape and found that, from 1998 to 2007, jobs in the clean energy sector grew 2.5 times faster than jobs overall.

Pew is working on a second report that will investigate the direction of the clean energy economy in G-20 countries in years to come.

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