16 March 2010

Clean Energy Trends 2010: Hope Springs Eternal

Green shoots are starting to poke up out of the ground in my yard, a sure sign that Spring is on its way.

Hope springs eternal for the cleantech sector as well, according to the folks who bring us the Clean Energy Trends annual report, despite the downturn in the overall economy and failure at Copenhagen.

The 2010 report was issued today by Clean Edge Inc., a research and publishing firm devoted to the cleantech sector.

In 2009, according to the report, "combined global revenue for the three major clean-energy sectors – solar photovoltaics (PV), wind power, and biofuels – grew by 11.4 percent over 2008, reaching $139.1 billion."

These three sectors are expected to reach $325.9 billion by 2019, according to Clean Energy Trends 2010.

Venture investing in the sector declined, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance and quoted in the report, but as a percentage of overall venture funding the sector share increased from 11.4 percent in 2008 to 12.5 percent in 2009.

Readers of The Green Skeptic will be particularly interested on the report's take on China.

China was just a minor player five years ago and now leads the race for cleantech dominance. However, according to Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder, the principal authors of the report, despite the country's surge, it is "too early to declare China the de facto winner."

"No one country or region will lead in all energy sectors," the authors reported on a conference call this morning. "China also faces significant challenges dealing with air and water pollution, and entrepreneurship is difficult there."

This last point contradicts MIT political scientist and China expert Ed Steinfeld's assertion that China is "one of the most entrepreneurial places on earth," which appeared in a Business Week article last Friday. (The article cited China's rate of self-employment far exceeds that in the U.S.—51.2 percent to 7.2 percent.)

Nevertheless, as Pernick said in an interview after today's conference call, "The challenge for China is can you build cleantech on the back of polluted air and waters?"

Their sense is that China is working on this issue simultaneously with the cleantech build-out. "And they are taking the opportunity to leapfrog where they can," Pernick said.

Key findings of the Clean Energy Trends report include:

  • The global production and wholesale pricing of ethanol and biodiesel reached $44.9 billion in 2009 and is projected to grow to $112.5 billion by 2019. In 2009, the biofuel market consisted of more than 23.6 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel production worldwide.
  • Wind power (new installation capital costs) is projected to expand from $63.5 billion in 2009 to $114.5 billion in 2019. Last year’s global wind power installations reached a record 37,500 MW. China, the first-time global leader in new installations, accounted for more than a third of new installations, with 13,000 MW
  • Solar PV will grow from a $30.7 billion industry in 2009 to $98.9 billion by 2019. New installations reached almost 6 GW worldwide in 2009, a nearly sixfold increase from five years earlier. But because of rapidly declining solar PV prices, industry revenue in 2009 fell about 20 percent, from $38.5 billion in 2008.
  • The global solar PV and wind power industries together currently account for a total of more than 830,000 jobs worldwide. By 2019, global industry growth will push the total to more than 3.3 million jobs.

The report also includes an IPO Watch List tracks clean-technology companies that have recently filed for IPOs, including Codexis, Fallbrook Technologies, Solyndra, and Tesla Motors, as well as other likely candidates, such as Silver Spring Networks.

Finally, the authors identify 5 key trends for the coming years:

  • Carbon as a Feedstock (They cite the Khosla-backed Calera and its captured-carbon cement, which may see investment from Peabody Coal)
  • Steep PV Price Drops Redefine the Solar Industry (Companies to watch include FSLR, Sharp, SunPower, Trina Solar, and MEMC Electronic Materials)
  • Biomass Utilities and District Heating (Adage Biopower, District Energy St. Paul, First Energy, Viessman, and Xcel are among their comapnies and projects to watch)
  • Clean-Tech Megaprojects (Masdar City has delayed its construction targets; China has apparently abandoned plans for Dongtan, a new eco-city near Shangai; although hope is on rise for two solar megaprojects in China from FSLR and eSolar);
  • High Speed Rail (China leading the way again; Central Japan Railway has two maglev joint ventures in the US)
Once again, the Clean Edge guys have provided a good overview of the state of cleantech trends. This is valuable information for investors and entrepreneurs in the sector.

For more information about the Clean Energy Trends 2010 report or the other research conducted by Clean Edge, go to http://www.cleanedge.com./

(Disclosure: I hold long positions in FSLR. This post is for informational purposes only and is neither intended to be investment advice nor an offer, or the solicitation of any offer, to buy or sell any securities.)