Who Is Leading The Move To Clean Energy? (Part 1)

Clean energy is already a massive industry and will continue to grow going forward as it becomes cheaper and as the world is forced to move away from fossil fuels. Who is emerging as a leader in this industry and what energy types are getting the most investment?
For this post, the sources considered are all renewables outside of nuclear and large-scale hydroelectric (I will analyze those in future posts). The full list is:
  • Wind
  • Solar
  • Biofuels
  • Biomass
  • Other hydro
  • Geothermal
  • Marine
Data are pulled from this report and this is basically my attempt at summarizing the pieces that are interesting to me as the report is very long but full of great info.

Which Countries Are Taking The Lead?

All over the world, countries are investing in renewables, so it's difficult to present all of the data cleanly. My first thought was to break out the top three investors, group everyone else into a single block, and plot them vs time. The results are below:

There's a lot going on there as the relative balance between countries and the total investment are both moving. To isolate how much each country is contributing, I generated the same plot but used the % of total investment for the y-axis:

Which countries invest most in renewable energy

As you can see clearly from this one, Europe invested heavily and has backed off and China is really starting to take over. Recent news indicates that this trend will likely continue.

A third way to look at it is to sum the total investments over the last decade or so from each country. The plot below contains this from smallest to largest:

Renewable energy investment by country

Finally...it's worth looking at how investments for the world as a whole are increasing year-over-year. A plot of that is below:

Renewable energy investment by year

What Are They Investing In?

From the list above there is a good bit of variety in the energy sources. However...once you look at the actual investments, it's clear that only two really gained momentum (solar and wind):

Which renewables get the most investment

Similarly to above with the countries, here is that same plot with % of total as the y-axis:


In recent years, China has really left everyone else behind in their investments and solar has started taking over. However, other developing nations (e.g., India) are really ramping up investments also so it will be very interesting to see how this evolves in the next few years.

Solar has pulled ahead as the renewable energy source getting the most money right now and it is getting steadily cheaper (future posts are coming on this) so I don't expect this trend to stop. One interesting thing to watch is that we've likely passed the point where emissions reductions are sufficient and we will probably have to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. This makes bioenergy very attractive. I will put together future posts analyzing the scalability and cost-effectiveness of various energy sources.

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