Intelligent Energy

Global renewable energy investment surpasses fossil fuels

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Global investment into renewable power sources surpassed investment into fossil fuel power plants in 2010, according to a Bloomberg report.

A coal fired power plant in Northport, New York. Many coal power plants are being decommissioned in favor of natural gas. Image credit: Wikipedia

Global investment into renewable energy sources has for the first time surpassed monies spent on fossil fuel power plants, Bloomberg New Energy Finance has found.

Biomass, solar, wave, and wind installations drew approximately US$187 billion last year, according to the report. In contrast, a total of $157 billion was invested into traditional power sources. Bloomberg published its findings on Friday.

We’ve been following domestic renewable investments in the United States over the past year. U.S. venture capital investment into renewables cleared the $1 billion mark for fourth quarter of 2010.

In April, market research firm Cleantech Group published a report, which found that venture capital money is flowing into green technology at the highest level since the company began to monitor global investment in 2002.

While the report shows that renewables have cleared the threshold, "dirty" power plants are remain the most predominant energy workhorses. Renewables are currently account for just 4 percent of grid power (not including hydropower, 7%).

Coal is currently king in the United States, trailed by a nearly equal proportion of natural gas and nuclear power generation. Some energy industry watchers forecast that natural gas will rule the future.

Investment into natural gas power stations is increasing as coal becomes less desirable, and is forecasted to become the U.S’s top source of electricity. Government subsidies will fund building a new generation of nuclear power plants.

Personally, I’d put an asterisk on any predication because the future is a very fluid thing. The ongoing UN Climate negotiations may be floundering, but the realities of climate change may eventually prompt more dramatic diplomatic action.

Pair that urgency with the falling cost of solar power, and renewables may become a bigger part of the energy in the future (at least in countries that do have a national energy strategy).

David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure