Contrary to what the mainstream media would have Americans believe, 2011 saw major growth for the renewable energy sector. In fact, renewable energy investments topped out at $260 billion in 2011, an increase of 5%. Already 2011 is considered a milestone year, with Bloomberg reporting the $1 trillionth investment dollar in clean energy.
Leading the way were investments in solar energy, which jumped 36 percent to $136.6 billion, outstripping wind energy at $74.9 billion. The sizeable jump in solar energy was spurred by a 50% decline in solar module prices.
And for the first time in a number of years, the US took the lead in renewable energy investment, knocking China off its much-coveted throne. Clean energy investments in the US rose by a third to $56 billion while Chinese investments only rose by 1% to $47.4 billion.
However, many analysts suggest that substantial growth in the American renewable energy sector was a result of expiring federal loan guarantee and Treasury grant programs. Many companies rushed to receive funding in 2011, thus causing renewable energy investment to spiral upwards.
Unfortunately, the expiration of these programs in 2011 only leaves one federal subsidy program remaining: a Production Tax Credit. But even this program is slated for retirement at the end of 2012, thus meaning that 2013 could be a very slow year for renewable energy in the US unless some form of subsidy is extended.
Other notable increases in renewable energy investments were from India, which rose 52 percent to $10.3 billion and from Brazil, which rose 15 percent to $8.2 billion.
Image CC licensed by Vattenfall: Horns rev wind farm in Denmark