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Renewable Energy Investment: Not Looking Too Sustainable

By Zach White , Apr 16, 2013 11:26 AM EDT
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Many see renewable energy as the best way to simultaneously save our environment and economy, but recent changes in investments in renewable energy make that prospect look less likely.

Investment in renewable energy has been much lower so far this year — lower than at any time since the bottom of the 2008 market crash that kicked off this ongoing recession, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The recession itself is one of the causes of the drop, as are the initiatives set up to help end and mend the recession.

One of the biggest causes of the drop was the uncertainty brought by the U.S. government’s gridlock over many budget issues, but primarily the wind energy production tax credit. Many wind energy producers saw what they thought was the looming death of the federal tax subsidy, which makes their job more financially sustainable, or possible, so they rushed to get as many wind farms and wind turbines erected as they could, or at least projects approved, before the deal ended at the end of 2012.

Congress made a last-minute deal on New Year’s Eve that saved the tax credit, but the rush had already happened, leaving little to be done this year.

The wind energy production tax credit was established to be more long-term, but numerous post-crash stimulus programs, set up to hold up and grow industries vital to the future, are now expiring as scheduled, making renewable energy investment less attractive.

Across the Atlantic, Europe has been the traditional capital of renewable energy across the globe, but with wild uncertainty and instability in the E.U., and several countries requiring massive bailouts and pursuing hefty austerity cuts, the programs that lifted the continent to its place at the top are not as strong.

With conservative government leaders across Europe arguing for reduced spending and less government, the subsidies and tax credits that helped the same European countries dominate the manufacture and use of renewable energy technologies are some of the first to go.

In Asia, where many analysts see the greatest potential for growth in renewable energy, growth across the entire economy has been slower than expected.

And while the world economy will eventually convert entirely from fossil fuels to unlimited renewable energy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance Chief Executive Michael Liebreich feels it might not be enough to ease environmental concerns.

“For investment in clean energy to play its role in stemming the growth in world emissions, we would need to see investment levels at least double by 2020, rather than fall,” Liebreich said.

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