With an expected US$738 billion spend on clean energy sources over the next decade, China is the global cleantech opportunity.
Many countries are embracing national cleantech strategies to position themselves for economic competitiveness and growth. For reasons ranging from creating jobs, to incubating high-value industries, to achieving energy security, gaining efficiencies or combating environmental degradation, many governments are making cleantech innovation, adoption and exports a top priority.
Denmark: an early cleantech adopter moves into electric vehicles
Decades ago, Denmark set itself apart by embracing wind as an energy, jobs and economic engine.
The 1970s oil crisis first sparked Denmark's determination to be energy independent. Today, wind generates 20% of Denmark's energy from over 5,000 turbines, a percentage pegged to rise to 50% by 2020 with a growing portion from offshore.
Denmark has become the world leader in the wind industry, with a 40% share of the global wind turbine market. Danish company Vestas is the world's largest wind turbine manufacturer.
In its quest for 100% fossil fuel independence by 2050, Denmark's Government has committed US$2 billion to cleantech. Goals include deploying 400 megawatts (MW) of new offshore wind turbines by 2012; renewables kicking in 10% of total energy for transport; cutting greenhouse gas emissions 20% from 2005 levels; reducing energy use 4% by 2020 from volumes consumed in 2006; and tripling wind capacity by 2030.
China: the emerging clean energy leader
When it comes to size, population and output, China is all superlatives. And energy is no exception. China's energy consumption is expected to surge 75% by 2035, according to the International Energy Agency. Today, roughly 75% of China's electricity comes from coal.
To meet its vast energy needs, curb pollution from coal, cut foreign oil dependence and spark innovation and economic growth, China's Government is taking an orchestrated approach through clean energy-friendly laws, funds, incentives and standards. China's US$586 billion economic stimulus plan alone earmarks roughly 37% of spending for cleantech projects.
As a result of such initiatives, China scored the number one spot on Ernst & Young's global Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index in 2010.
Driving long-term action is China's 12th Five-Year Renewable Energy Plan, which calls for boosting renewables use, improving energy efficiency and fostering cleantech R&D. The country's energy plan targets renewables as 15% of China's energy mix by 2020 and 33% by 2050, from nearly 10% in 2009, as well as shrinking the country's energy carbon intensity 45% by 2020.
Chinese clean energy companies and projects received investment of US$54.4 billion in 2010 — 22% of all global investments in clean energy, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). With an expected US$738 billion spend on clean energy sources over the next decade, China is the global cleantech opportunity.
India: a national solar mission
The power deficit in the world's second most populated country averaged nearly 13% during peak hours in the year ending March 2010. India imports almost 75% of its oil, with renewables contributing just 10% of its energy mix. Reducing renewable energy technology costs is thus a top state goal.
Investors see opportunity. Clean energy asset financing in India skyrocketed to US$3.4 billion in 2010 from just US$560 million in 2004, according to BNEF.
India's recently-launched National Solar Mission (NSM) targets a twentyfold growth in its installed solar capacity sourced from the country's abundant solar irradiance. The NSM seeks 1GW in installed solar capacity, of which 60% would be solar thermal and 40% PV, respectively.
South Korea: smart grid and electric vehicles pave the way
This often-overlooked electronics powerhouse — which ranks 10th globally for energy consumption and 9th for CO2 emissions — plans to plow some US$36 billion into alternative energy by 2015, led by the private sector.
South Korea's ambitious Green Growth program aims to make it the world's seventh green power by 2020, and its fifth by 2050. Expected benefits include 500,000 new jobs, 230 million tons less carbon dioxide and 440 billion fewer imported barrels of oil.
Another goal is South Korea's US$24 billion plan for a nationwide smart grid by 2030 — the world's first — aims for 30,000 charging stations at malls, parking lots, gas stations and public buildings by then. The South Korean Government also views smart grids as a strategic export industry.
Brazil: diversifying its renewable energy supply
Brazil has long been a clean energy pioneer. Nearly half its energy is renewable today versus the worldwide average of 13%, led by hydropower.
Among Brazil's current cleantech sources, its 22 million gallons of ethanol distilled per day make it the world's second-biggest producer and meet roughly half of Brazil's domestic fuel needs.
However, deforestation, population displacement and power disruption from drought have pushed Brazil to diversify into small hydro, wind and solar power, and to harness feedstock by-products like sugar cane bagasse.
Brazil's national cleantech strategy for 2022 targets: boosting clean energy generation by 11.5GW by 2019; installing smart meters in each of its roughly 62 million homes by 2020; cutting carbon dioxide emissions 40%, increasing biomass and wind energy tenfold; and tripling ethanol production to 75 billion liters.
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