Business - China Pew report: China leading in clean energy spending China's investment in clean energy rose to $34.6 billion in 2009, outpacing U.S.

By Elaine Kurtenbach

AP Business Writer

SHANGHAI (AP) -- China has taken the lead in investments in clean energy, spending nearly double what the U.S. did in 2009, as it ramps up projects in both renewable and traditional energy, a report said Thursday.

China's investment and financing for clean energy rose to $34.6 billion in 2009, out of $162 billion invested globally, according to the report by the nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts. U.S. spending ranked second, at $18.6 billion, with European nations also recording strong growth.

"Countries are jockeying for leadership. They know that investing in clean energy can renew manufacturing bases, and create export opportunities, jobs and businesses," Phyllis Cuttino, who directs the Pew Environment Group's Global Warming Campaign, said in a statement.

The report comes as China is clinching a slew of energy and resource-related deals meant to help ensure access to the commodities needed to keep its fast-growing economy booming:

-- On Wednesday, China's offshore oil and gas company CNOOC agreed to buy 3.6 million tons of liquefied natural gas a year, for 20 years, from an Australian energy project operated by BG Group PLC. Though a value for the deal was not released, Australian media reports estimated its worth at 80 billion Australian dollars ($73 billion) -- the country's biggest single company-to-company contract ever.

-- Just days before, CNOOC announced plans for a $3.1 billion joint-venture with Bridas Energy Holdings Ltd., a major Argentine energy firm.

-- On Tuesday, Royal Dutch Shell PLC said it plans to explore for natural gas with China National Petroleum Corp. in southwestern China's Sichuan province. That followed news that Arrow Energy Ltd., an owner of gas assets in Australia, had accepted a joint takeover bid from Shell and PetroChina worth $3.15 billion.

-- Over the weekend, China signed 15 deals with Russia worth $1.6 billion.

Natural gas is cleaner than the coal that now fuels about three-quarters of China's electricity generation. But Beijing also is throwing massive resources into nurturing renewable energy, both to counter environmental damage from fossil fuel emissions and to curb its soaring reliance on imports.

The U.S. still leads the world in installed renewable energy, with 52.2 gigawatts of wind, small hydroelectric, biomass and waste generating capacity, the Pew report said.

But China is quickly closing the gap, as a doubling in wind energy capacity alone boosted its own installed renewable energy capacity to 49.7 gigawatts in 2009. Germany trails with 30.9 gigawatts, the report said.

It said much of the impact from $184 billion in stimulus spending earmarked for clean energy by governments of the Group of 20 industrial nations is yet to come. Of that amount, China is due to spend nearly $47 billion on improved energy efficiency, clean vehicles, installation of solar power and improvements to its overtaxed electricity grid.

Spending on clean energy is forecast at $200 billion for 2010, up about 25 percent

U.S. spending on renewable energy fell 42 percent in 2009 from the year before, constrained by tight credit and the lack of a strong policy framework, the report said. But it is likely to rise faster this year, helped by the enactment in 2009 of production tax credits for wind energy and investment tax credits for solar power.

The report noted that the U.S. still dominates venture financing and technology innovation for clean energy, but in manufacturing it lags behind China, which has become a powerhouse in production of both solar cells and wind turbines.

With climate change legislation stalled in the U.S. Congress, the outlook for faster growth remains uncertain, the report noted.

In terms of clean energy investment relative to the size of its overall economy, China ranks third in the G-20 at 0.39 percent, well behind Spain, which leads at 0.74 percent. The U.S., at 0.13 percent, was 11th, the report said.

"There are reasons to be concerned about America's competitive position in the clean energy marketplace. Relative to the size of its economy, the United States' clean energy finance and investments lag behind many of its G-20 partners," the report said.

Published: Fri, Mar 26, 2010