January 22, 2012

Why 2012 will be a big year for clean tech


Story by Staff

Don’t be fooled by the recent activity from the United States on the energy front. Despite the public relations disaster that was the collapse of Solyndra, the California solar energy company that received plenty of funds and attention from President Barack Obama’s White House, and the continued aggressive marketing campaign of the coal industry, the U.S. is keenly interested in the success of clean technology. Here are six reasons why:

1. Solar Investment. The cost of photovoltaic panels has dropped dramatically and investment in solar energy has grown by more than a third, year-over-year, according to a Bloomberg News report this month. At $136.6 billion, solar energy investment in the U.S. is already massive and it’s only going to grow as the price of oil increases and the cost of capturing and converting solar energy dips.

2. Shift in the Car Industry. It’s happened, finally. The world’s major automakers, who for years had resisted creating engines based on alternative fuels, have embraced new technology in a significant way, as the recent Detroit Auto Show revealed. Hybrid and electric cars such as the Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Volt were the talk of Detroit, and they are expected to be big sellers this year. Once American consumers adopt alternative fuels in their cars, they’ll be more likely to do so in their homes as well.

3. Where the Money Is. Long-term investors haven’t shied away from green energy, even though there have been obstacles to its growth. “Despite some of the well-publicized headwinds, venture capitalists continue to invest in clean tech,” says Sheeraz Haji, CEO of Cleantech Group, a company that markets green-energy businesses. “Based on our historical data, we believe 2012 will be an all-time record year for global clean-tech investments.” Globally, $9 billion was invested in clean energy in 2011 and there were 391 merger-and-acquisition deals in the sector, according to Cleantech Group.

4. The Success of Brazil. In 2011, the U.S. government had plenty of negotiations for a stake in Brazil’s vast offshore oil reserves, but there’s also lots of interest in the South American powerhouse’s biofuels industry. Brazil has famously reduced its use of fossil fuels during the past decade and the U.S. is among the countries seeking ways to do the same within its borders. As Brazil’s clout grows, its ability to influence practices in the U.S. and elsewhere will also broaden.

5. PlanetSolar and Continued Innovation. The largest solar-powered ship in the world completed its circumnavigation of the world on Saturday, in time for the start of the 2012 World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi. Tûranor PlanetSolar, developed by Swiss and New Zealand inventors, is a 31-meter long catamaran that sailed 48,000 kilometers around the world using the power seized from its top deck of photovoltaic panels. Successes like these will get noticed by investors and policymakers.

6. The Death of the Keystone Pipeline. When the Obama government killed the Keystone Pipeline, which would have brought plenty of oil from Canada and created thousands of jobs for Americans, it made clean energy all the more important in the immediate future. Obama needs to prove the U.S. didn’t need the pipeline, which means investments in other forms of energy have to pay dividends for the country in 2012.

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