Renewable Energy Strong Despite Recession


"Only solar companies saw their revenue decline in 2009. . ."

A devastating recession slowed but did not stop the clean energy industry's growth in 2009, a report issued Tuesday found.

Helped in part by government stimulus funding, the world spent $63.5 billion on wind farms and turbines last year, up 23.5% from 2008. The global biofuel market rose 29%, hitting $44.9 billion, according to the annual Clean Energy Trends report from the Clean Edge Inc. research firm.

Only solar companies saw their revenue decline in 2009, and that was due to a plunge in the price of solar panels. Worldwide revenue for photovoltaic companies fell 20.3% last to reach $30.7 billion, the first drop since Clean Edge began tracking solar sales in 2000.

The clean energy industry's overall growth surprised the report's authors, who last year predicted revenues would either fall or—at best—stay flat.

"In the face of one of the worst years in economic history, we found that clean energy revenue continued to expand," said Ron Pernick, one of the report's authors.

He added, however, that the industry's growth was "considerably tamer" than it had been before the recession. Between 2007 and 2008, for example, worldwide revenue for solar companies surged 89.7%.

Pernick and coauthor Clint Wilder credit government stimulus programs, both here and abroad, for some of the continued growth.

By the report's estimate, about $100 billion of the $787 billion stimulus package approved by Congress last year will be devoted to clean energy. China will spend $440 billion to $660 billion on the industry in the next 10 years, as the country vies to become the dominant player in green technology.

"China indeed will be a formidable opponent to any other country looking to excel in clean tech," said Pernick. "But we believe it's too early to declare China the winner."

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