In less than a decade, clean energy transitioned from novelty products to the mainstream of world energy markets. The sector emerged not so much in a linear fashion as episodic—in fits and starts associated with the worldwide economic downturn, continent-wide debt crises, national policy uncertainty, and intense industry competition. Through it all, however, the clean energy sector moved inexorably forward, with overall investment in 2012 five times greater than it was in 2004.
Although 2012 investment levels worldwide declined 11 percent, to $269 billion, the clean energy sector weathered the withdrawal of priority incentives and initiatives offered by governments in numerous key markets, demonstrating its resilience. Reliable clean energy investment data have been collected for nine years now. Looking at the data in three-year increments, average clean energy investment increased by at least $90 billion triennially—from an average of $64 billion in the 2004-06 period to an average of $156 billion in 2007-09 and $245 billion in 2010-12.
Beyond its resilience, the clean energy sector also continues to demonstrate dynamism as the cost of wind, solar, and other sources declines in the global marketplace. Individuals, businesses, and countriesseeking clean, secure, and affordable sources of power and fuel are finding clean energy an increasingly attractive alternative to conventional sources, which are unpredictable in price and generate local, regional, and global air pollutants. As a result, economic, environmental, and security imperatives are driving clean energy deployment forward.
Who's Winning the Clean Energy Race: 2012 Edition documents how the old order is changing technologically and geographically. Clean energy is gaining ground in the global energy mix. Even as several pioneering countries have stumbled, new markets have opened, and the center of gravity for clean energy investment has shifted from West to East.
Review our previous research on private clean energy investment:
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