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Who Will Win the Clean-Energy Revolution?

LONDON – After less than a year and a half in which so much energy news seemed troubling – nuclear meltdowns, oil spills, rising gas prices – it might be startling to find out that worldwide installed capacity of renewable energy has now surpassed that of nuclear power. In fact, global investment in clean energy, driven by enlightened, forward-looking national policies, grew to a record $243 billion in 2010, up 30% from the previous year.

Indeed, in less than a decade, clean energy has grown from a niche industry to a significant source of trade, investment, manufacturing, and job creation. Since 2004, annual investment in the sector has increased by an impressive 630%. We need to ensure that this encouraging trend continues.

The emergence of the clean-energy sector reflects rational policies – from research to financing to tariff incentives – in the world’s largest economies. These measures, which still pale in comparison to what is granted to conventional fossil fuels, will be reduced over time as economies of scale are realized and costs fall. We are not far from the day when clean energy can compete head to head with coal, oil, and gas.

In many places, wind energy is already competitively priced, and it has attracted almost half (48%) of all G-20 clean-energy investments in recent years, fueling the addition of some 40 gigawatts of generating capacity – enough to power 30 million homes.