In the spirit of international competition (Go, U.S.A., go!), I decided to look at which of the world’s countries is leading the way in the clean energy technology sector (“clean tech”). It just so happens that the World Wildlife Fund recently commissioned a report on the same subject – what good timing! According to the report, China is the leader in absolute clean tech manufacturing with over $75 billion in sales in 2011. The U.S. is second behind China with $51 billion in sales, and Germany ranks third with approximately $30 billion in sales. Rounding out the top ten are Japan, Brazil, Denmark, Spain, South Korea, India, and France. This list doesn’t differ too greatly from world economy rankings done by the UN.
Looking at clean tech sales as a proportion of a country’s total economy provides for an interesting contrast. Here, Denmark leads the pack with nearly 3% of the total economy stemming from clean tech manufacturing. China ranks second with approximately 1.75%, and Germany comes in third at around 1%. The remaining countries in the the top ten are Brazil, South Korea, Czech Republic, Spain, Slovenia, Latvia, and Taiwan. This measure allows us to see which countries place more of a priority on clean tech. Interestingly it is not the world’s largest economies or the world’s largest polluters that prioritize clean technology. The U.S ranks 15th on this measure, even though we are the second largest emitter of carbon emissions. (My opinion: we should be doing more; those who pollute the most should be investing more in clean tech solutions.)
A few more interesting facts for you: The size of the global clean tech market in 2011 was $257 billion, with wind, solar, biomass, and energy efficiency measures making up nearly equal shares of that market. Interestingly, wind and solar energy are both predominant sectors in China (at 35% an 30% of the market, respectively). In Europe, the market is dominated by wind technology (40%), and the U.S. market is most focused on biofuels (50%). The worldwide clean tech market grew 31% from 2008 to 2010 and another 10% from 2010 to 2011.
The clean tech market clearly represents a large economic opportunity (as well as an opportunity to better care for ourselves and our planet). Are we in the United States taking full advantage of this market and both the jobs and profits it has to offer? Is the U.S. paying its “fair share” to develop this market, as one of the world’s largest emitters of carbon dioxide? I am inclined to answer “no” to both of those questions.
The future will need to be one dominated by clean energy, so the U.S. should be investing now. We can either invest now when we have the time to switch gradually, or we can invest later when the need is urgent and we are scrambling to change right away. Either way, we will eventually need to make the shift to clean energy, and until we fully commit to that shift, we will be stuck in an awkward transition trying to half-heartedly piece together a solution.
I think it will be tough, but we can do it. We just need to get in the game! What do you think? Do you think the U.S. (or your home country) will commit to clean technology?