Clean Energy to Grow at 28 Percent a Year for a Decade

The global market for renewable energy will grow at an annual rate of 28 percent this decade, according to a U.S. research group.

OAKLAND, California, US, 2001-04-20 <> The market for solar and wind power, fuel cells and microturbines will jump from the $7 billion in revenues last year to more than $82 billion by 2010, says Clean Edge Inc. in its report, ‘Clean Tech: Profits & Potential.’ Energy efficiency, wind power, solar power and microturbines offer the most immediate and cost-competitive solution to current demand, while a hydrogen economy based on fuel cells is not far behind. “For all the hype about the New Economy, a real, sustainable new economy is emerging around clean technologies,” says co- author Ron Pernick. “It is focused not on saving the earth, but on the real business and economic opportunities from providing clean energy, transportation, water, and materials on a global scale.” Clean technologies, which include renewable energy, alternative transportation and water purification systems, “are poised for dramatic growth in a manner that will offer significant and tangible economic, environmental, and social benefits,” says the report, which also details the growing investment for venture funds. “Clean technologies represent a diverse range of products, services, and processes that harness renewable materials and energy sources, dramatically reduce the use of natural resources, and cut or eliminate emissions and wastes,” adds co- author Joel Makower. “Many of these are competitive with, if not superior to, their conventional counterparts in terms of cost and performance.” A number of economic, technological, environmental and societal forces have converged to attract investors to technologies such as biobased materials, green chemistry, hybrid electric vehicles, hydrogen power, photovoltaics and small-scale water desalination, and Pernick speculates that “a small but growing number of forward-thinking investors recognize that several of today’s emerging clean-tech companies will be the Microsofts of the future.” “Many of these technologies have been around for years, but now such problems as global warming and acute energy shortages have created unprecedented demand for clean technologies,” says Makower. “While there are numerous uncertainties and obstacles, we believe that a significant number of companies, entrepreneurs, investors and governments will profit immensely from the clean-tech revolution.” The global market for solar PV will increase from US$2.5 billion to $7.5 billion in 2005 and to $23.5 billion in 2010. Wind power will go from $4 billion to $13 billion and $43.5 billion in those years. Clean Edge interviewed 30 executives, tracked news stories and aggregated data from public and private research reports for its document. It found that renewables could rescue California from its current energy crisis “with room to spare.” The role of renewables in filling the gap in that state’s energy grid “has gone relatively unnoticed amid the clamor for ever- greater supplies of electricity, but their role can provide the critical difference in filling the gap between energy supply and demand without having to build new fossil-fuel or nuclear energy plants,” it concludes. “Since California’s energy problems are a sign of things to come, not just in California, but throughout the US and beyond, the lessons learned in the Golden State could be critical to solving future energy shortfalls.” California consumes 61,000 MW of power during peak periods, which will grow to 72,000 MW by 2010. If PV modules were situated on one-tenth of available rooftops, parking lots and open land near transmission lines, solar energy could produce 6,800 MW of power, while California could conservatively install 5,000 MW of wind capacity, it says. “The number of companies offering clean-tech goods and services will experience a similar growth curve, with hundreds of start-ups reminiscent of early markets for e-business, telecom, and wireless technologies,” it predicts. “The significant differences that exist between clean-tech and e-biz companies likely will result in fewer boom-and-bust business cycles than were experienced among many high-tech companies.” “Investment money will pour into clean technology firms at an accelerating rate as investors, though chastened by the nosedive in technology stocks, view clean tech’s attractive growth potential,” it adds. “Clean technologies stand to provide significant relief to shortages in energy, water, and other natural resources, while providing a path for both developed and developing countries to address such pressing concerns as greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, resource scarcity, and air and water pollution.” “The success of clean technologies will depend nearly as much on government investments and policies as on companies’ entrepreneurial and marketing skills,” concludes the report. “Some countries recognize this and are aggressively promoting clean-tech agendas. Other countries may be forcing clean-tech companies to compete on an uneven playing field through subsidies and policies that favor coal mining, oil drilling, clearcutting, and other ‘dirty’ technologies.” “Today’s clean-tech revolution is the result of a convergence of environmental, technological, economic and social factors,” says the report. “Changing political winds have led many business and government leaders to recognize that their future competitiveness is directly linked to their ability to be more resource-efficient and less reliant on older, polluting technologies.” “The future of clean technologies, however promising, won’t come easily or cheaply,” it concedes. “A myriad of challenges could derail one or more technologies, or at least slow their development and implementation.” Government support will be critical for to advance clean technologies, with adequate and reliable research budgets as well as incentive systems to promote purchases by both businesses and consumers. “Governments must identify and, as much as possible, eliminate subsidies that give an unfair advantage to conventional fuels and technologies that compete with new, cleaner technologies.” “Activist pressures will likely play a key role in keeping the heat on companies, governments, and others to develop and promote clean technologies,” it says. “Activists also will play a role in educating their constituencies about the new technologies, and in watch-dogging companies and politicians to ensure that their promises are kept and their marketing campaigns are truthful.” “The opportunities and uncertainties will make the coming decade a critical period for clean technology,” it adds. “Much like the Internet revolution, there will be winners and losers, and more than a little carnage among companies and entrepreneurs competing for a slice of the clean-tech pie. But there’s a great deal of evidence to suggest that clean technology will engender a more sustainable and highly profitable era — for business, the planet, and all of its denizens.”

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