What do Canada, the U.K., and Japan have in common?
Well, besides being ranked 2nd, 3rd, and 4th behind Germany in the BBC World Service 2013 Country Ratings Poll (who knew?), these three G-20 nations all deviated from global trends in 2013 with significant increases in renewable energy investment.
Slow recovery from a global recession and policy uncertainty caused renewable energy investment worldwide to decline for a second consecutive year, down 11 percent to $254 million. These three countries, however, continued to open up their renewables markets with some serious spending on clean energy.
Let’s take a look at renewable energy developments in these three countries to better understand how they avoided the global decline in renewable energy investment while typical market mega-powers such as China and the U.S. did not.
Canada Jumps to Seventh Place in G-20 RE Investment Rankings
Though Canada has become an important player in the global energy scene due to its vast oil and natural gas resources, the country’s fastest source of energy generation has been non-hydro renewables such as wind, solar, and biomass.
Country-wide renewable energy standards contributed to a doubling of Canada’s non-hydro renewable energy generation between 2005 and 2012, at which point it had more than 7,000 MW of wind, solar, biomass, tidal, and wave capacity (accounting for 5.5 percent of its total electrical generating capacity).
Image Credit: Windpower Monthly
Canada’s largest source of electricity remains hydropower, however, and this should continue to be the case in the foreseeable future. The National Energy Board predicts Canada’s hydroelectricity production will increase from 77 GW in 2012 to 85 GW in 2035.
In terms of renewable energy investment, Canada made a strong showing in 2013, climbing up five spots in the G-20 rankings to seventh place. Investment grew by 45 percent, to $6.5 billion.
The biggest increase came in the wind sector, where financing increased by more than 40 percent, to $3.6 billion. Notable projects in Ontario province include the 270-MW South Kent Wind Farm and the 299-MW Blackspring Ridge project. The solar sector also showed impressive growth, attracting $2.5 billion worth of investment in 2013.
U.K. Sees 13 Percent Increase in Renewable Energy Investment
While falling electricity costs and concerns about future support for renewable energy policies contributed to a decrease in most European countries’ renewable energy investment, the U.K. experienced 13 percent growth in 2013 ($12.4 billion), pushing it to fourth on the list among G-20 nations.
Like in Canada, the greatest area of growth for the U.K. came in the wind sector, where investmentsincreased nearly 50 percent to $5.9 billion. This impressive leap was due in part to the strength of offshore wind projects and more activity in public market financing. Indeed, 2013 saw the completion of the world’s largest offshore wind project, the 630-MW London Array, which will power nearly half a million U.K. homes.
Image Credit: London Array
In addition, the U.K. recently introduced new ‘strike prices’ to support long-term investment inrenewable energy generation. The new strike prices guarantees a minimum price to generators of renewable energy from 2015 under new ‘Contracts for Difference” (CfDs) that will be drawn up between generators and the government.
The government expects these strike prices will unleash £40 billion ($67 billion) worth of renewable energy investments over the next six years, so don’t look for the U.K. to lose its newly earned place near the top of the renewable energy investment rankings any time soon.
Japan Becomes Fastest-Growing Clean Energy Market in the World
The world will long remember the Fukushima nuclear disaster as one of the worst environmental accidents in history, but Japan is eager to show the world it has recovered from the most immediate energy-security effects of the event.
That’s why it’s no surprise that Japan became the fastest-growing clean energy market in the world in 2013 as the country explored new energy alternatives.
Making the jump from fifth place to third place among G-20 nations for overall clean energy investment (behind China and the U.S., respectively), Japan’s clean energy market grew 80 percent, to $28.6 billion. Most notably, Japan’s solar sector received nearly a doubling of investment, to $28 billion. That figure alone represents almost 30 percent of total renewable energy investment in the G-20.
Japan’s unmatched growth in its solar sector is wholly due to its lucrative feed-in tariff program (FIT). Launched in 2012, the FIT aimed to help offset losses from 50 nuclear generators that were taken offline after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The FIT stands at $0.43 for every kilowatt-hour of electricity solar owners’ systems send to the grid. This premium is guaranteed for ten years to residential buyers and twenty years for commercial, industrial, or utility-scale installations.
With its aggressive FIT program, Japan is set for a solar boom in the coming years, which will see rapid development of large-scale PV and other renewables projects. One such project already with financial backing is a 230-MW solar PV power plant to be constructed in the Japanese city Setouchi. GE Energy Financial Services, the energy arm of the General Electric (GE), is planning to invest $100 – $200 million into the project, so Japan isn’t short of giant, international backers to provide capital for its growing solar program.
Image Credit: CleanTechnica
With strong showings in 2013, all three of these countries hold promise for continued renewable energy investment in the next few years. It will be interesting to see how they navigate the political uncertainties surrounding renewable energy sources (and the precipitous drop in their costs), since these seemed to affect so many other countries in the past year.
Still, things are looking good for Canada, the U.K., and Japan. Who knows, perhaps their unparalleled gains in renewable energy investment in 2013 helped them secure their high rankings on the BBC’s list of the most positively viewed nations in the world.
Aven Satre-Meloy graduated from Santa Clara University with a B.S. in political science and environmental studies. He joined Mosaic last summer as a Communications Fellow and has been part of the blog team ever since, writing about clean energy and designing many of the infographics on Mosaic’s blog. Aven is currently teaching English in Turkey, which has a rapidly growing renewable energy program. A Montana native, Aven is especially interested in how renewable energy can create sustainable growth in the developing world.