According to new research released today by The Pew Charitable Trusts, global clean energy finance and investment grew by 30% over 2009 to reach $243 billion in 2010. The clean energy sector therefore continues to emerge as one of the most dynamic and competitive in the world, witnessing 630% growth in finance and investments since 2004.

The 2010 edition of the report, entitled Who's Winning the Clean Energy Race? examines how nations are faring in the increasingly stiff competition for private investment among the world's leading economies, with investments in the G-20 countries accounting for more than 90% of the global total.

Commenting on the underlying reasons certain countries are more successful than others in attracting private investment, Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew's Clean Energy Program, stated: "Countries like China, Germany and India were attractive to financers because they have national policies that support renewable energy standards, carbon reduction targets and/or incentives for investment and production and that create long-term certainty for investors."

As such, China continued to solidify its position as the world's clean energy superpower. Its record $54.4 billion in investments in 2010 represents a 39% increase from 2009. Germany was second in the G-20, up from third last year, after experiencing a 100% increase in investment to $41.2 billion.

The United States, which had maintained the top spot until 2008, fell to 3rd in 2010 with $34 billion. Among the G-20 countries, the United Kingdom experienced the largest decline, falling from fifth spot to 13th, with the report suggesting that uncertainty surrounding clean energy policies in these countries is causing investors to look elsewhere for opportunities.

Italy attracted $13.9 billion in clean energy financing last year, improving its global standing to 4th from eighth in 2009. Of particular noteworthiness, Italy is the first country to achieve grid parity, or cost-competitiveness, for solar energy. Also of interest in 2010 is the fact that India joined the top 10 ranking, attracting $4 billion, a 25% increase.

Among the technologies attracting investments, wind power continued to lead the pack at $95 billion. However, the solar sector experienced significant growth in 2010, with investments growing 53% to a record $79 billion and more than 17 GW of new generating capacity globally. Germany accounted for 45% of global solar investments.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Regionally, Europe remained the leading recipient, attracting $94.4 billion, led by Germany ($41.2 billion) and Italy ($13.9 billion);
  • The Asia/Oceania region, led by China, continued its sharp rise, attracting $82.8 billion, a 33% increase over the previous year;  
  • The Americas also saw investment grow 35%, but as a region it remains a distant 3rd, attracting $65.8 billion;  
  • Investments in small-scale, residential solar grew by 100% to $56.4 billion in the G-20. Germany accounts for nearly half the total, followed by Japan, France, Italy and the United States;
  • Installed generating capacity increased to 388 GW from wind, small-hydro, biomass, solar, geothermal and marine, with China accounting for more than 25% of the global total;  
  • Excluding R&D funding ($35 billion), investment totalled $198 billion;  
  • Increasing 15% to $118 billion, asset financing accounted for the majority of private investment in G-20 countries;  
  • Public market financing grew 27 % to $15.9 billion, as companies launched public stock offerings to raise capital for expansion;  
  • Venture capital/private equity investments in clean energy increased 26% percent to $8.1 billion. The U.S. led with $6 billion, or 75% of the G-20 total.  

The entire report, including country profiles, interactive graphics and video can be found here.