The global market for green technologies is set to grow to $396 billion (£245 billion) over the next decade, according to a new report by leading US analyst firm Clean Edge.
In its 2012 Clean Energy Trends report, Clean Edge said the global market for the three cleantech benchmark technologies – wind, solar photovoltaic and biofuels – grew by 31 per cent to $246.1 billion (£157.5 billion) in 2011 from $188.1 billion (£120.4 billion) in 2010. The analyst estimates that total growth for the three technologies will reach $385.8 billion (£246.9 billion) by 2021.
Last year, global wind power installations equaled 41.6 gigawatts (GW) and total investment for the year reached $71.5 billion, up from $60.5 billion in 2010. Europe was the second largest region for wind installations, totaling 10 GW, with China leading the world for the fourth year in a row, installing 18 GW in total – more than 40 per cent of all global wind turbines. The report predicts growth for wind will reach $116.3 billion in 2021.
The continuing trend in the rising price of ethanol and biodiesel ensured the global market for biofuels breached $83 billion in 2011, up from $56.4 billion in 2010, according to the report. It projects the market will grow to $139 billion by 2021.
The global market for solar PV, including modules, system components, and installation, increased from $71.2 billion in 2010 to a record $91.6 billion in 2011, although these figures do not fully reflect the growth in installations of PV, the report notes. The price of PV technology fell by 40 per cent between 2010 and 2011 meaning market revenues were up by only 29 per cent, compared to installations, which shot up by 69 per cent from 15.6 GW in 2010 to more than 26 GW worldwide last year.
Between now and 2021, the report projects installed costs for PV will continue to decline, falling to nearly one-third of their current levels, with a corresponding growth in the market reaching £130.5 billion by 2021.
Despite double-digit growth rates, Clean Edge said the cleantech market in 2011 had been overshadowed by the bankruptcy of US Government-backed solar firm Solyndra, which meant the industry had become "a modern-day whipping boy for all that ails the US economy". The failed company represents a potential loss in excess of $500 million for American taxpayers.
The Clean Edge report attempts to balance up the debate, however, pointing out that the oil, gas, and coal industries still receive massive subsidies; venture capital is a risky, high-reward business critical to US innovation, and nuclear power projects require considerably more in loan guarantees than renewables.
The report also outlines key trends that it predicts will impact clean energy markets in the coming years. These include, the growing importance of "deep" commercial building retrofits in driving up major efficiency savings; breakthroughs in waste to resource; and smart grid.
Jeremy Leggett, chairman of UK-based Solarcentury said: "Any industry growing volume at 69% and cutting costs 40% whilst netting nearly $100 billion you would suspect might have a glittering future.
“Big Energy needs to understand that this industry is coming for their market share fast, first in Germany and soon after in other countries, they should embrace solar technology and cease their pushback in defence of a ruinous and increasingly expensive status quo.
“The UK government is among those who need to understand that their accommodation of Big Energy's special pleading will cause them to lose out in a job-rich global industry just as it approaches a mass market."