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Renewable Energy: UK versus USA

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Previously both the UK and USA sat high in the PEW Research Centres annual report on investment in renewable energy.

However, last year both countries dropped down the pecking order. What went wrong and with the latest report just around the corner does it look as though their standings will improve?

Formally ranked #1 in the world, the USA has slipped down to third place, falling behind both China and Germany. US politicians attempting to bolster their green credentials point to the fact that their investment in ‘clean energy’ actually rose by over fifty percent in 2010 to around $34 billion, but in truth this hides the fact 2009 saw a significant decrease from the previous year. In short, many commentators feel the USA is heading backwards.

The ‘stimulus funding’ which sought to boost the renewable energy industry has come to an end and it is unclear how it will be replaced. In light of the Solyndra scandal there is now even more uncertainty. This is a company which Obama once claimed was “leading the way to a brighter and more prosperous future”. The future suddenly looks much less clear.

The UK, if anything, has faired even worse dropping from fifth place out of the top ten altogether. Under the Labour government there was strong investment in offshore wind energy and what many commentators felt was a genuine commitment to action on climate change. Since the coalition government has come to power the focus on renewable energy seems to have waivered, with PEW noting that investors are fearful of the ‘high level of uncertainty about the direction of clean energy policy making’.

Spending cuts are obviously at the forefront of the governments mind and although it may be a short term mentality it appears as though a strong commitment to renewable energy will be one of its victims. We have already seen the feed-in tariffs for solar energy being slashed and the recent petition by MP’s to cease wind turbine development hardly speaks of a progressive government.

While China, India, mainland Europe and even parts of South America seem to be making progress in the quest for green energy it is sad that both the UK and USA seem to have stagnated. It will be interesting to see how they fair in the latest PEW report- but the signs do not look good.

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