China leads the world in renewables, UN says

Conundrum continues, as the world's biggest polluter once again tops a list of the planet's greenest countries, with $49.8 billion in 2010 clean energy investments - mostly wind farms.

China, the world’s biggest polluter, has once again topped a list of the world’s leading renewable energy countries.

A report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) notes that in 2010, China led all nations investing in renewable energy, with $49.8 billion in funds.

Most of China’s investments - $41.4 billion - went into wind farms, and the balance was split evenly between solar and biomass/waste-to-energy (wte), the report notes.

The $49.8 billion was nearly a quarter of the $211 billion invested worldwide, and led a 32% rise in global investing from the previous year according to the report, prepared for the UN by London-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Germany ranked second, with $41 billion in investments, doubling its expenditures over the previous year. Most of the $41 billion went into rooftop solar, which falls into the UNEP’s “small-scale distributed capacity” category. The report notes that Germany’s feed-in tariff policies helped encourage investment in that area, as did declining solar prices .

In sharp contrast, less than $1 billion of China’s $49.8 went into “small scale” projects, as investors ploughed $48.9 billion into utility scale, “financial new investment in renewables.”

The report claims that Germany’s investments in small-scale projects helped make up for a 22% decline in Europe’s utility-scale investments, to $35.2 billion.

The U.S. ranked third among countries, with $29.6 billion. Of that, $24.9 billion fit the utility scale category. Two thirds of that, $16.1 billion, went into wind. Solar received $5.5 billion, and biofuels, biomass/wte and geothermal split the remainder.

The UN also noted that “For the first time, developing economies overtook developed ones” in new investments in utility-scale renewable energy projects.  South and Central America rose 39% to $13.1 billion; Middle East and Africa more than doubled to $5 billion; India grew 25% to US$3.8 billion, and “Asian developing countries excluding China and India” climbed up 31% to $4 billion.

On the down side, corporate research, development and deployment dropped 12% to $3.3 billion “as companies retrenched in the face of economic hard times,” the report notes. Private equity funds also set aside 1% less for renewable energy expansion capital, the report states.

Copies of the UN’s report, which provides a rich breakdown of energy and investment types, are available here.


Related Post: If China leads the world in clean tech, why are people dying?

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