Despite uncertainty over government subsidies and international trade wars, biofuels, solar photovoltaic energy, and wind power combined for $246 billion in global revenue in 2011, according to clean-tech market analyst Clean Edge’s Clean Energy Trends 2012 report.
The 2011 market represents 31 percent growth from 2010’s $188 billion mark, fueled by double-digit expansion in wind and solar combined with increased biofuel prices. Even more promising, the sector is primed to continue its rapid expansion over the next decade, reaching $385.8 billion by 2021.
Solar photovoltaics, which include manufacturing and installation, led the pack with $91.6 billion in 2011 revenue – an increase of $20.4 billion in just one year. Installations climbed nearly 70 percent to 26 gigawatts (GW), driven by a 40 percent decline in module prices, and installed costs are predicted to decline to one-third their current level by 2021.
This downward cost trend is due to the industry’s rapid growth, which is creating economies of scale and is expected to boost the solar PV market to $130.5 billion by 2021. According to Clean Edge, the global levelized cost of energy (LCOE) has been nearly cut in half since 2007 and solar PV should be cost-competitive without subsidies in 13 American states within the decade.
Wind power, including new installation capital costs, grew to $71.5 billion in 2011 from $60.5 billion in 2010. Global wind power installations equaled 41.6GW last year, the largest volume year on record, and China remained the global installation leader with 18GW, 40 percent of the total amount. Wind is expected to continue its steady growth, and should reach $116.3 billion by 2021.
Biofuels, including ethanol and biodiesel, boomed in 2011 with $83 billion in global revenue, up from $56.4 billion in 2010, and should have the largest market share of all three technologies by 2021 at $139 billion. Interestingly, this jump is mainly due to an increase in commodity prices, as sales only increased to 27.9 billion gallons in 2011 from 27.2 billion gallons in 2010.
Clean Edge attributes much of this growth to venture capital funding, an assertion backed by a recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance report that found a record $260 billion in renewable investments in 2011. But Clean Energy Trends 2012 predicts the countries that provide innovative financing tools for their native industries will define the clean energy market over the next few years.
In the short term, five major trends are expected to drive the clean energy market up over 2012: U.S. military investment and deployment, Japan’s post-Fukushima transition, energy-efficiency building retrofits, waste-to-energy breakthroughs, and energy storage solutions across the grid.