By Kari Williamson
China overtook the USA in terms of renewable energy investments in 2009 and increased its lead in 2010, but 2011 saw the USA claw back its position with total investment surging 33% to US$55.9 billion. At the same time, Chinese investment in renewable energy grew only 1% to US$47.4bn.
The US' position may not last, however, as further Federal support mechanisms are set to expire at the end of 2012.
Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, says: “The news that the US jumped back into the lead in clean energy investment last year will reassure those who worried that it was falling behind other countries. However before anyone in Washington celebrates too much, the US figure was achieved thanks in large part to support initiatives such as the Federal loan guarantee programme and a Treasury grant programme which have now expired.
“The country’s principal remaining support measure for renewable energy, the Production Tax Credit, is currently also scheduled to fall away at the end of 2012 unless it is extended. There may be a rush to get projects completed in 2012, followed by a slump in investment in 2013 if it expires.”
The potential expiry of renewable energy incentives did help spur investments in 2011, however, with a rush of projects in the third quarter taking advantage of the US Federal loan guarantee programme before it expired at the end of September.