Major report shows U.S. slipping in ‘clean energy’ race

Pew this month brought on former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) to help lead its push on clean energy.

The report finds that global investment and finance in green sectors such as wind and solar power last year grew over 30 percent from 2009 levels to reach a record $243 billion.

But the U.S., while seeing a growth in investment, fell behind Germany into third place in the G-20.

“Despite a 51 percent increase in clean energy investments in 2010, the United States dropped to third place among G-20 members with a total investment of $34 billion. At 11th among G-20 members in terms of five-year growth in clean energy investments, and in view of ongoing policy uncertainty, the United States' competitive position is at risk," the report states.

Cuttino said clean energy investments are translated into jobs and called the U.S. slide into third a “huge disappointment,” noting the U.S. pioneered key renewable technologies but is now losing out to other countries.

“We are still having our competitive position be eroded in this area,” she said. "We have got to get in the game."

China is solidifying its lead as the world’s “clean energy superpower,” the report states. The country, which has aggressive domestic programs to back renewable power generation and manufacturing, had over $54 billion in investment last year and accounted for over a fourth of total G-20 clean energy investment.

China leads the world in clean power generating capacity and is also the world’s leading producer of wind turbines and solar modules, the report states.

Cuttino said Pew will push for more consistent U.S. policies, noting “we have to send investors a signal that there is demand internally.”

“Our support for this industry has been really episodic,” Cuttino said. “We really need to give investors some kind of long-term certainty.”

She said Pew is seeking a national policy such as a “clean energy standard.”

President Obama called for a standard in his State of the Union speech that would require roughly a doubling of U.S. power generation from low-carbon sources — including renewables, nuclear and others — to reach 80 percent by 2035. But placing new requirements on utilities faces major hurdles on Capitol Hill.

Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said the U.S. is “losing out” on chances to attract investment.

“The United States remains the global leader in clean energy innovation, receiving 75 percent of all venture capital investment in the sector, a total of $6 billion in 2010, but the U.S. has not been creating demand for deployment of clean energy. As a result it is losing out on opportunities to attract investment, create manufacturing capabilities and spur job growth,” he said in a statement.