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Renewable Energy Investments Reach Record High Of $257 Billion In 2011

Solar panel installation – Intel Arizona

Here’s some good news on the renewable energy front. According to a U.N. report, global investments in renewable energy reached a record-high of $257 billion in 2011, with $147 billion of the funding going toward solar power alone.

Yearly increases in demand for rooftop photovoltaic installations in Germany, China, Britain, and Italy led to the higher investments in solar power. Large-scale solar thermal installations in the US and Spain also contributed, making 2011 a huge year for the solar industry.

According to the report’s authors, the demise of companies like Evergreen Solar, Solon, Solar Millenium, Solyndra, and SpectraWatt indicated the solar industry is actually maturing. It might not make sense to think a decrease in companies means good things for the industry, but the report puts it into a great perspective:

“In 1903, the United States had over 500 car companies, most of which quickly fell by the wayside even as the automobile sector grew into an industrial juggernaut… Today, the renewable energy sector is experiencing similar growing pains as the sector consolidates.”

China accounted for nearly one-fifth of the total investment dollars, with $52 billion in spending on renewable energy. The United States was not far behind with investments of $51 billion.

The overall investment sum grew 17%, considerably smaller than the 37% increase in 2010. Regardless, U.N. Environment Program leaders believe these record numbers indicate that renewable energy is getting closer to matching money going toward fossil fuels.

This is great to hear, and it’s even more reason to join in on the upcoming “Twitter-storm” to encourage world leaders to end fossil fuel subsidies. With renewable energy investments getting close to par with fossil fuels, why not transfer those dollars to where it really belongs? It will be very interesting to see if anything significant unfolds at Rio+20 next week.

Image CC licensed by Intel Free Press: Solar panel installation at Intel’s Ocotillo, Arizona.

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