US Led World in Clean Energy Investment for 2011

© Pew Charitable Trusts

The United States led the world in clean energy investment in 2011, overtaking China, new analysis from Pew Charitable Trusts shows.

Pew's Who's Winning the Clean Energy Race 2011 Edition breaks down clean energy investment on a country-by-country basis, illustrating this with a quite useful interactive map (see screengrab above) showing how much each nation has invested, and their renewable energy capacity based upon source.

The US invested $48.1 billion in clean energy in 2011, 21.4% of total investment among the G-20 nations. This brings the US's total renewable energy capacity just under 93 GW. Wind power leads the way, with 46.7 GW installed. Solar in the US now stands at 4.6 GW, biomass at nearly 13 GW, small hydro 25.3 GW, geothermal at 3.3 GW. Ethanol and biodiesel capacity, though listed for other nations, are not given for the US—though the nation's biofuel target is noted on Pew's national factsheet.

Globally, clean energy investment rose to $263 billion for 2011, an increase of 6.5% over 2010.

Rounding out the top six positions among the G-20 nations were China, Germany, Italy, the UK, and India.

If you're scratching your head trying to keep all the announcements straight about renewable energy growth in 2011: With this study, the US leads the world in overall investment (in dollar terms); India led the world last year in percentage growth of renewable energy; China led the world in new installations of wind power.

Renewable Energy Doesn't Always Mean Clean Energy
Important to note, regarding Indonesia: Pew says 88% of Indonesia's billion dollars of clean energy investment last year went to biofuels—placing it in the 14th place among G-20 nations.

Indonesia's biofuel investment is based upon expansion of palm oil plantations, something which many environmental groups are highly critical of, due to rainforest destruction, the resulting habitat loss for a number of highly endangered species, and the resultant carbon emissions from deforestation.

A number of studies have shown that biodiesel produced from palm oil grown on cleared rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia has life-cycle carbon emissions higher than the petroleum-based fuels it replaces.

In short, though this fuel can accurately be called renewable, it is highly questionable calling this specific biofuel, produced in these specific conditions, a clean energy source.

Tags: Renewable Energy | United States