According to two new reports on the global status of renewable energy, the industry posted strong rates of investment and new installation in 2012, proving itself as more than an alternative source of energy.
The world’s economies, however, continue to spend $6 subsidizing fossil fuels for every $1 spent to support the growth renewable energy.
Global Wind Day, tomorrow, June 15, is an opportunity to highlight this harmful disparity just ahead of the G8 summit in the UK. These major economies, as members of the G20, pledged in 2009 to "phase out and rationalize over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies while providing targeted support for the poorest"—a much applauded decision that has yet to see significant follow-through.
Not only do these subsidies continue to sponsor the activities that cause climate change, but they work against the creation of stable government support for the renewable energy industry. The lack of reliable, long term support for renewables creates uncertainty that holds back the potential of the industry.
Despite uncertainty, however, the industry has achieved striking successes so far.
The promising trends seen in the industry were reported by two sister publications, REN21’s Renewables 2013 Global Status Report and Frankfurt School–United Nations Environment Programme/Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2013, launched together June 12, 2013.
The publications report that 2012 was the second highest year ever for renewable energy investments, totaling $1.3 trillion since 2006. Additionally, the installation of new renewable energy continues to grow, adding new, clean energy capacity both on and off the grid.
This growth isn’t limited to developed nations—in fact, developing nations are quickly rising to the top of this burgeoning industry. In 2012, renewable energy investments in developing nations totaled $112 billion, just shy of the $132 billion invested in developed nations. This is a dramatic shift from 2007, when developed nations invested 2.5 times more in the industry.
The sector employs an estimated 5.7 million people worldwide, with high rates of employment in Brazil, China, India, the European Union and the U.S. Green jobs are also growing in other nations, with an increasing number of technicians and sales staff in off-grid sectors of the developing world. In Bangladesh for example, selling, installing and maintaining small solar panels employs 150,000 people directly and indirectly.
Amongst the good news, the publications point out that 2012 investment rates were down from their 2011 high. Examples of contributing factors to the decline include a 34 percent drop in the U.S. as well as similar decreases in Italy and Spain due to policy uncertainties.
In Japan, however, new feed-in tariffs for installations contributed to a 73 percent spike in renewable investment. Japan is now on track to the world’s largest solar market. In only seven months following the introduction of the tariffs, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry approved 12,258 mega watts of solar projects.
Policy uncertainty led to an overall decline in investments—but as the success of Japan’s tariffs shows, the decline can be temporary. REN21’s report demonstrates that the right policies can drive the successful integration of larger shares of renewables.
Shifting policy priorities to bolster the growth of the renewable energy sector, not just for providing economic growth but also for advancing the clean solutions needed to fight climate change, is vital for the future. The first step in showing serious commitment to do so will be cutting down harmful fossil fuel subsidies.
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
On Tuesday, Jan. 24, as Washington readies for the annual State of the Union address, more than 500 people in referee outfits are converging on Capitol Hill to “blow the whistle” on Congress. Why? Consider these two facts:
1. The American people believe (rightly) that Members of Congress are more responsive to their campaign donors than to their own constituents.
2. Americans of all affiliations clearly favor ending fossil fuel industry handouts.
Americans are sick of watching Congress receive bribes from the fossil fuel industry to vote for scams like the Keystone XL pipeline and fossil fuel subsidies. We see what’s happening, and we’re declaring it out of bounds and unsportsmanlike from this point forward.
The five biggest oil companies alone have made more than $1 trillion in profits over the last decade. It’s absurd that these companies still demand, and still receive, handouts from Congress paid for by taxpayers. This isn’t about energy or jobs—it’s about greed and corruption.
Listed below is some useful information about the cycle of dirty energy money corruption going on in Congress.
Money In—Campaign Finance
(All data is from Oil Change International’s Dirty Energy Money campaign which uses public data made available by the Center for Responsive Politics.)
Since 1999, the coal, oil and gas industries have shelled out more than $93 million to current members of Congress.
The trend is increasing with each election cycle, and current members of Congress took more than $25 million in campaign contributions from the oil, coal and gas industries in 2009-2010.
Through October of 2011, dirty energy interests had given this Congress $7.8 million in this cycle alone.
It is worth noting that direct contributions to candidates are only one way that the fossil fuel industry exerts influence. Substantially larger sums of money are mobilized by SuperPacs and other entities.
Each year that the president has submitted a budget, it has included eliminating $4 billion in annual subsidies to the dirty energy industry. Each year Congress has been unable to eliminate the subsidies.
In a vote in May of 2011, the reason was clear. Senators who voted to preserve subsidies took an average of five times more dirty energy money than those who voted to stop handouts to the oil industry.
Dirty Energy Money and the Keystone XL Pipeline
Earlier this month, American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard threatened President Obama with “huge political consequences” if he rejected the Keystone XL pipeline. This threat was unusual only because it was public, but the industry clearly continues to implicitly threaten all of our elected Representatives.
In July, the House of Representatives voted on the Keystone XL pipeline. Those Representatives who voted for the pipeline received 513 percent more from the oil and gas industry than those who voted against it.
In total, those who voted for the pipeline have received $10,922,161 from the oil and gas industry while those who voted against the pipeline have received only $717,552. In other words, those that voted for the pipeline have received 15 times more money from the oil and gas industry.
In December, the House held another vote with similar results. Members of Congress who supported the measure have received $41 million from the fossil fuel industry, while those who voted against the bill have received only about $8 million from oil, gas and coal interests.
An analysis by ThinkProgress of lobbying disclosure records for the first, second, and third quarters of 2011 suggests that the lobbying expenses of the 20 or more business and labor interests who backed the project was $60 million compared to $1 million by the seven organizations that actively opposed the measure.
TransCanada’s lobbying efforts alone over the first three quarters of 2011 totalled $920,000, just under the total amount spent by its opponents..
Political Return on Investment
Buying Congress is a great investment for the oil, gas and coal industries. During the last two year cycle, they put in $25 million, and they got out at least $4 billion annually—$8 billion. In other words, for every $1 that the fossil fuel industry invests in Congress, they get at least $320 back.
For more information, click here.