2012 Was Record Year for Global Renewable Energy
Solar, wind and biofuels activities show increases in deployment, says Clean Edge’s Annual Trends report
Although 2012 proved to be an unsettling and difficult year for clean energy, the fundamental global market drivers for clean technology remained largely intact, according to the Clean Energy Trends 2013 report issued today by clean-tech research and advisory firm, Clean Edge, Inc.
This encouraging report shows that lower prices for many clean-tech goods and services, combined with a renewed focus on scalable projects, resulted in record annual solar, wind, and biofuels deployment. Against this continued expansion, however, combined global revenue for solar PV, wind power, and biofuels expanded just one percent, from $246.1 billion in 2011 to $248.7 billion in 2012. This marginal growth rate can be attributed to effects of rapidly declining solar PV prices.
“2012 was a year of extreme uncertainty for clean energy markets, as venture investors pulled back and high-profile bankruptcies became a partisan wedge in the presidential election, all while climate disruptions brought clean tech back into the limelight,” said Ron Pernick, Clean Edge co-founder and managing director, in a press announcement. “But a key lesson emerged from last year – the focus for investors and industry for the near- to mid-term will be on deployment.”
The Clean Energy Trends 2013 report’s key findings include:
- Biofuels (global production and wholesale pricing of ethanol and biodiesel) reached $95 billion in 2012, up from $83 billion the previous year. From 2011 to 2012, global biofuels production expanded from 27.9 billion gallons to 31.4 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel.
- Wind power (new installation capital costs) expanded to $73.7 billion in 2012, up from $71.5 billion the previous year. Global wind capacity additions totaled 44.7 GW (gigawatts) in 2012, a record year led by more than 13 GW added in both China and the U.S., and an additional 12.4 GW of new capacity in Europe.
- Solar PV (including modules, system components, and installation) decreased from a record $91.6 billion in 2011 to $79.7 billion in 2012. While total solar market revenues fell 19 percent – the first PV market contraction in Clean Energy Trends’ 12-year history – global installations expanded to a new record of 30.9 GW. While only five years ago PV was being installed at roughly $7 per peak watt, today projects can be completed at closer to $2.50 per peak watt globally.
- Together, Clean Edge projects these three sectors will nearly double from $248.7 billion in 2012 to $426.1 billion within a decade.
- Venture capital investments in U.S.-based clean technology companies totaled $5 billion in 2012, falling 26 percent from $6.6 billion in 2011, according to data provided by Cleantech Group. Clean tech’s decline, however, matched a similar downward trend for total VC investment, with clean-tech investments still representing nearly one-fifth of all VC activity in the U.S.
Increased financing from deep-pocketed traditional energy and technology players reflects the move away from early-stage capital towards on-the-ground deployment. In early 2013, Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings expanded its solar portfolio with a whopping $2 billion acquisition of the Antelope Valley Solar Projects in Southern California. Google’s recent $200 million equity investment in a Texas wind farm pushed the tech giant’s ownership in solar and wind projects to a combined 2 GW. And in January 2013, car rental giant Avis Budget Group announced its plan to buy car-sharing pioneer ZipCar for $500 million.
The report lists five key trends that will impact clean-energy markets in the coming years:
1. Smart Devices and Big Data Empower Customers, Open New Chapter in Energy Efficiency
2. Distributed Solar Financing Comes of Age
3. Under the EV Radar, Microhybrid Technology Saves Big on Fuel Consumption
4. In the U.S. and Overseas, Geothermal Picks up Steam
5. Perfectly Natural: Biomimicry Makes its Mark on Clean Tech