Up-front expenses associated with the adoption of clean energy technologies often make them off-limits to those who could benefit most from their use. This means that families and communities are forced to continue getting their power from centuries-old technologies, which is detrimental to their health, contributes to climate change, and is increasingly unreliable as demand increases.

A Year of Progress

The good news is that the clean energy sector continues to grow, despite the financial strain caused by the global economic recession. In fact, both investment and deployment of renewable energy increased in 2011, according to a recent study on G20 investment in clean energy from the Pew Charitable Trusts and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

In 2011, investment in clean energy from G20 nations rose to $263 billion, a 6.5 percent increase from 2010 and a whopping 600% increase from 2004. While investments rose, the installed capacity for renewable power of clean energy also soared to 565 gigawatts, in large part due to the fact that many clean technologies are becoming more and more cost competitive. This is equivalent to taking nearly 27 million cars off the road. Of the 565 gigawatts currently installed, 83.5 gigawatts were brought online in 2011 alone.

Price Competition Benefits Consumers

In 2011, the cost of solar and wind generating capacity in particular declined rapidly, due to continued manufacturing investments and advances in R&D. Solar photovoltaic module prices dropped 50 percent in 2011 alone, which led to a record 29.7 gigawatts of solar installed in 2011—10 times the level installed in 2007—raising global installed capacity by 70 percent. The wind sector also saw major growth, with more than 43 gigawatts of new capacity deployed in 2011.

In 2011, the cost of solar and wind generating capacity declined rapidly due to continued manufacturing investments and advances in R&D.

That’s why the Sustainable Energy for All initiative is a game changer. By promoting more investment and new business models, the barrier of high up-front costs for renewable energy may be a thing of the past. This will allow governments, businesses, investors, and civil society to come together to scale up their use of clean energy technologies in an effort to set a new course for generations to come.