- The clean energy sector is growing rapidly but could grow significantly faster and sustain this growth for decades.
- An aggressive scale-up is needed for clean energy technologies to fulfill the promise of economic and job growth, energy security and independence, and solutions to the climate problem.
- Clean energy technologies could add 5 million direct jobs to the global economy, strengthen energy security by reducing dependence on foreign oil, and abate more than the total carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions currently projected to be necessary for 2020 climate stabilization goals.
- Immediate, stable policies and increased investment are needed to support the necessary, aggressive scale up in clean energy. Annual private investment must grow by more than 3X in the next 10 years to scale up renewable energy technologies to meet climate stabilization goals. This level of growth is feasible, but policy action is needed immediately to support it.
- Sound, stable policy is needed to guide
• The supply chains for clean energy technology take years to ramp up capacity and require clear policy signals to attract investment today.
• Past experience shows that investment in efficiency — the cheapest form of energy savings — requires policy action.
• Stable policy that establishes a meaningful price on carbon is the single most important action that will encourage investment across the clean energy sector and ensure that capital flows to the most cost-effective technologies. Although clean energy is already providing solutions and attracting significant investment — private investment totaled more than $450 billion during the past 5 years with $135 billion invested in 2008 — a large amount of private capital remains on the sidelines or is currently diverted to supply fossil fuel energy.
In one world, clean energy markets expand dramatically. Private investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency more than triples, revitalizing the economy with green jobs in manufacturing, construction, and technology. Our energy economy becomes a source of investment in science, engineering, and technology, all of which drive national economic growth. Simultaneously, our investments deliver energy security and address climate change.
In the other world, clean energy markets remain a polite concession to the sustainability movement. Demand for renewable energy grows at the modest rate of 7% annually that many national agencies forecast. At this growth rate, these technologies will meet less than 2% of total global energy demand in 2020. Some jobs will be created, but the opportunity to build a global industry and advance U.S. leadership in technology will be lost. Meanwhile, the U.S. will remain dependent on imported oil and other fossil fuels, and climate change will continue unchecked.
The pace of innovation and private investment in clean energy is now making it possible to envision the first world. On the current trajectory, however, we end up in the second. The U.S. will miss a huge economic opportunity and squander the chance to address the climate problem and deliver jobs, economic growth, and energy security.