Clean Energy Trends 2007

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by: Joel Makower

The clean-technology revolution continues apace, with each week bringing a new and exciting development, it seems.

Over the past year, we've seen an explosive growth in new investments in renewable energy and other clean technologies, from venture funds, investment banks, pension funds, governments, and, of course, corporations. As I've previously pointed out, a diverse range of large companies now find themselves in the energy business, with more entering the field. And, of course, there's the long list of start-up companies, each with an implicit promise to address our global environmental, security, and energy challenges — and create jobs and investment returns along the way.

Just today, Bank of America added to the mix, committing a whopping $20 billion over ten years toward "environmentally sustainable business activity to address global climate change," as the company put it. Undoubtedly, some billions of this will go to support clean technology companies.

It's in this supercharged atmosphere that my partners at Clean Edge and I have just published Clean Energy Trends 2007, the sixth in our annual series. Each year, we track the growth of benchmark clean-energy technologies, forecast their market size a decade hence, and identify five key trends we believe are worth watching. We also feature an assessment of venture capital trends in energy tech, courtesy of our colleagues at Nth Power.

You can download this year's free report here (registration required).

Clean Edge has been tracking the clean-energy sector since 2000. At that time, the markets for solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind power represented annual global revenues of just $2.5 billion and $4 billion respectively. Six years later, these two industries combined equal more than $30 billion in annual revenues, a roughly fivefold increase.

Indeed, PV and wind have become big business. GE's wind division now sells around $3 billion in wind turbines annually (up from $2 billion last year) and Sharp, the world's leading manufacturer of solar PV modules, now racks up more than $1 billion annually in PV sales.

In this year's report, we project that:

  • global markets for biofuels (global manufacturing and wholesale pricing of ethanol and biodiesel) reached $20.5 billion in 2006 and are projected to grow to $80.9 billion by 2016;
  • wind power (new installation capital costs) is projected to expand from $17.9 billion in 2006 to $60.8 billion in 2016;
  • solar photovoltaics (including modules, system components, and installation) will grow from a $15.6 billion industry in 2006 to $69.3 billion by 2016; and
  • the fuel cell and distributed hydrogen market will grow from a $1.4 billion industry (primarily for research contracts and demonstration and test units) to $15.6 billion over the next decade.  
  • As usual, we identify five noteworthy trends. For 2007, they are:

  • the traction of carbon markets
  • the growth of closed-loop biorefineries
  • the promising growth of advanced batteries
  • Wal-Mart's unexpected clout as a clean-energy market maker
  • energy utilities' growing enlightenment around renewable energy  
  • You can read more about each of these in the full report.

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