China Ties U.S. in Green Energy Investments

Globally in 2011, private and public sector funding for renewable energy increased 17% to $257 billion. China and the U.S. are tied for spending in the green energy sector, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century. MarketWatch reports:

The U.S. and China wrapped up the year nearly neck and neck, with America spending about $51 billion on renewables in 2011, up 57%, while China surged 17% to $52 billion. In the case of Uncle Sam, spending spiked partly because of a rush to start projects in order to qualify for a tax break program that expired at the end of the year.

The growth rate for renewable energy has slowed from the 37% increase in spending in 2010, according to new numbers from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century.

The study found the slower growth, “was achieved at a time of rapidly falling prices for renewable energy equipment and severe pressure on fiscal budgets in the developed world.”

The growth also came despite plenty of lumps: scandal around a U.S. government-backed loan to solar panel maker Solyndra prior to its bankruptcy; swooning stock prices in the face of sovereign debt woes and insecurity around economic expansion in China and elsewhere.

However, despite the increase in funding, China still produces only 1.5% of its electricity from renewable sources, according to a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council. (Only 2.7% of the U.S.’s energy supply comes from renewable sources, far behind the top country, Germany, which supplies 10.7%)

Read more about renewable energy and see our special page on the environment in China, via CDT.