Intelligent Energy

Clean energy milestone: $1 trillion of investment

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One trillion dollars has been invested in clean energy since 2004. It's a positive milestone, to be sure. Find out how it stacks up against annual capital spending by oil and gas companies.

Clean energy hit a milestone recently: $1 trillion has been invested in clean energy since 2004, when oil prices began their volatile rise -- and when the folks at Bloomberg New Energy Finance began recording data. According to the number-crunchers over at Bloomberg NEF:

Like the recent birth of the world's seven billionth baby, it is impossible to pinpoint with certainty the one trillionth dollar of investment. However it is almost certain it took place during the last two weeks of November, probably somewhere in the developing world.

Investments made during this period include Rhodia Energy's 77 megawatt expansion of its biomass co-generation plant; China Huadian Corp. for a 48 MW wind farm in Fujian province and Marena Renovables Capital for the development of 396 MW La Ventosa wind farm in Mexico. Under the venture capital-private equity umbrella, electric vehicle maker Fisker Automotive snagged $58 million; and in the public markets, biodiesel maker Petrotech of Germany raised $11 million.

Regardless when that exact moment happen, the important detail is that it did. Back in 2004, $52 billion was invested in clean energy. Last year, $243 billion was invested, nearly a five-fold increase. Bloomberg NEF expects figures for 2011 to be in record territory, driven by investments in U.S. solar thermal projects, some large European offshore wind financing, continued activity in China and Germany and burgeoning renewable energy programs in India.

Despite its success, clean energy still falls far behind annual capital spending in oil and gas. Energy companies plan to spend a record $598 billion next year alone to hunt for and produce oil and natural gas worldwide. That means, in one year oil and gas companies will spend 60 percent of what clean energy has in six years. This isn't an apples-to-apples comparison. Still, it offers some perspective on the disparity (which is slowly closing) between fossil fuel and clean energy spending.

Photo: Flickr user epSos.de, CC 2.0

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure