Friday, December 16, 2005

The $42 billion a year renewables industry

The total global investment in clean energy (renewable energy plus low-carbon technologies) in 2005 will be around $42.2 billion, according to estimates from New Energy Finance.

Sounds a lot. But it must be put in context.

It is equivalent to just 6.7 percent of the $630 billion estimated by the International Energy Agency (IEA) last year as the total worldwide annual demand for investment in the energy industry through to 2030 ($568 billion in 2000 dollars expressed in 2005 dollars).

Contrast this to the latest forecast from the US Department of Energy which said consumption of renewable energy in the United States will increase by just 1.8% a year over the next quarter-century.

This itself wouldn't even keep up with rising energy demand. Instead it's an excuse to keep burning coal and gas, and shows the lack of vision in the current administration.

[DoE also admits that this forecast implies an annual increase of 1.2% in CO2 emissions to 8,115 Mt by 2030 from 5,815 Mt in 2004. Just what we need.]

Back in the real world we see renewables have at least arrived: "At over $42 billion in annual investment volume, the clean energy industry worldwide has achieved a meaningful scale," said Michael Liebreich, Founder and CEO of New Energy Finance.

"However, it is clear that for there to be a truly meaningful switch in the current energy mix away from fossil sources -- without the need for a massive build-out in nuclear capacity around the world -- levels of investment in clean energy will have to go up by a factor of at least five over the next decade," said Liebreich, "which translates into a sustained growth rate of nearly 20 percent per annum."

20% a year. That's not feasible is it? Do we have the capacity, even with China?

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