The prospects for getting a global agreement on limiting greenhouse gases may be grim, but the world is shifting toward consuming more renewable energy in any case. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, last year investors poured $187 billion into electricity from renewable sources (wind, sun, biomass, etc.), versus $157 billion for fossil fuels, marking the first time ever that clean energy investment has surpassed dirty power.
"The progress of renewables has been nothing short of remarkable," United Nations Environment Program Executive Secretary Achim Steiner said in an interview. "You have record investment in the midst of an economic and financial crisis."
Of course, a good chunk of this investment comes courtesy of aggressive government action. Nearly $66 billion in subsidies poured into the renewable energy sector this year.
Signals indicate the boom is likely to continue.
In Europe, the next decade will see huge renewable energy growth, according to a recent European Environment Agency report:
Offshore wind energy capacity in Europe is projected to increase 17-fold between 2010 and 2020, while newer renewable technologies such as concentrated solar power and wave/tidal power will also increase more than 11-fold according to projections. European countries are also expected to significantly boost solar photovoltaic power, onshore wind and other renewable technologies over the next decade.
So the future looks bright. Let's all cross our fingers and hope that the faltering euro doesn't change the view.
Photo: Blades for Vestas Wind Systems A/S wind turbines are stored at the company's factory in Tianjin, China. (Nelson Ching/Bloomberg)