Clean energy continues ascent as major economic force

The clean energy sector is predicted to almost double over the next decade, despite the economic crisis slowing demand for a host of clean technologies.

In a report published today by US research and consultancy firm Clean Edge, the biofuels, wind and solar sectors will grow from $249bn (£166.5bn) in 2012 to $426bn in 2022.

The report, Clean Energy Trends 2013, highlighted that 2012 proved to be an unsettling and difficult year for clean energy with high-profile bankruptcies and layoffs troubling many clean-tech companies, while overall venture investments “retreated in the face of increasingly elusive returns”.

Following last year’s difficulties, the global clean energy market has continued to experience the same issues in 2013.

In Europe, on-going economic struggles continue to slow demand for many clean technologies, while in China, where economic growth and cleantech commitments seem to carry on unimpeded, the country’s overleveraged solar manufacturers are being “forced to crawl back to the government for even larger safety nets”.

In the US, the sector has also been hindered by conservative organisations and politicians attacking pro-clean energy policies at both the state and federal level.

Despite this, the fundamental global market drivers for clean technology remain largely intact, according to the report.

“Intensifying resource constraints (everything from freshwater to energy feedstocks) cannot be ignored, especially with a global population now exceeding 7 billion. In the aftermath of unprecedented climate disruption in the US and abroad, resiliency and adaptation are becoming critical business and policy drivers as organisations scramble to meet a literally changing landscape,” the report claims.

However, amidst the turbulence of 2012, clean energy has continued its ascent as a major economic force, with an increasing focus on deploying technologies that are ready and available now.

The report adds that against 2012’s instability, solar, wind, and biofuels deployment continued to rise. As a result, combined global revenue for solar PV, wind power, and biofuels grew year-on-year from $246.1bn in 2011 to $248.7bn in 2012.

Biofuels reached $95.2bn in 2012, up from $83.0b on the previous year, and is projected to grow to $177.7bn by 2022.

Wind power is estimated to increase from $73.8bn in 2012,up from $71.5bn the previous year, to $124.7bn in 2022.

However, solar PV decreased from a record $91.6bn in 2011 to $79.7bn in 2012 as continued growth in annual capacity additions was not enough to offset falling PV prices.

Leigh Stringer

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie