Global Clean Energy Report: China Surpassed U.S. as Top Sector Investor in 2009

The United Nations Environment Program and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century today reveal in a pair of new reports that despite an overall financial downturn in 2009, global investments in sustainable energy increased worldwide. Core clean energy investments from private and public sources totaled $162 billion.

Policies that favor the development of a green economy and businesses in the fields of renewable energy and energy efficiency also increased: more than 100 countries enacted some type of policy target and/or promotion policy related to renewable energy by early 2010.

Thirty eight developing nations had policy targets, and 41 developing nations had a policy of promoting renewable energy. Some segments declined, while others shined of course. Highlights from the clean energy 2009 reports follow below.

Shined: China
Declined: United States

China surpassed the United States for the first time as the country with the greatest investment in clean energy.

Shined: U.S. growth in renewable energy
Declined: U.S. growth in traditional energy

Domestic power capacity increased through clean energy sources more than non-renewable sources like coal, gas and nuclear in 2009.

Shined: Rooftop solar photovoltaics
Declined: Large, utility-scale solar photovoltaics

Investments in large-scale solar photovoltaics dropped dramatically worldwide. Why? The cost of solar PV technology also dropped dramatically. Record investments in small-scale, namely rooftop solar photovoltaics offset that, partly.

Shined: Spending on wind, power storage and electric vehicles in China
Declined: Spending on biofuels (like sugar and corn ethanol) in the U.S., Brazil and Europe

Biofuels saw $18 billion of financial investment worldwide in 2008, but ended up with just $7 billion in 2009.

Shined: Private sector investment in clean energy in Asia and the Americas
Declined: Private sector investment in green energy in Europe

For the first time, private sector green energy investments in Asia and Oceania, some $40.8 billion in 2009, exceeded that in the Americas, at $32.3 billion. But private sector investment in Europe was down 10% at $43.7 billion.

Shined: Private equity and venture capital investments in power storage and energy efficiency
In decline: Public, government spending on clean energy

Around the world, venture capitalists and private equity investors spent $4 billion on energy-smart technologies like storage and efficiency. That’s more than they spent on any other clean energy sector in 2009. By spring 2010, government spending on clean energy began to slow, somewhat, thanks to a new phase of the economic downturn, volatility in the market and governments facing pressure to cut their deficit

For more information about the global clean energy economy in 2009, read the entire report at the UNEP website.