Despite a slew of bad press, lingering economic headwinds, and historically low natural gas prices in 2012, clean energy will remain a key player in addressing the growing energy demands of the global economy in years to come.
According to a report released Tuesday by energy research and advisory firm Clean Edge, clean-energy revenue is projected to double to $426 billion by 2022. Combined global revenue for solar, wind, and biofuels edged up just 1 percent to about $249 billion in 2012.
Government support coupled with ever-growing demand will fuel growth in the renewable energy industry, the report noted, as technological advances continue to make clean energy increasingly competitive with fossil fuels.
"Intensifying resource constraints (everything from freshwater to energy feedstocks) cannot be ignored, especially with a global population now exceeding 7 billion," the report stated, underscoring President Barack Obama's pledge to double renewable power by 2020. "Even amidst the carnage of 2012, clean energy has continued its ascent as a major economic force, with an increasing focus on deploying technologies that are ready and available now."
According to data released Wednesday by the American Wind Energy Association, the nation's wind power generation shot up 117 percent in 2012, producing more than 10 percent of electricity in nine states. Overall, wind energy produced 3.5 percent of the United States's electricity last year, becoming the number one source of new power generation.
"With wind power serving as the number one source of new generating capacity in 2012, it's no surprise that wind energy is increasing its role in the overall U.S. power mix," said Elizabeth Salerno, Director of Industry Data & Analysis at AWEA, in a statement.
Solar power, too, is expected to see a boost in coming years with the $77-billion industry forecast to grow industry the most since 2011, according to a Bloomberg report. Even as European markets see a pullback in installations, tumbling costs for panels have made solar increasingly competitive in places like the U.S. and China.
While the specter of low and potentially dropping natural gas prices has some industry watchers spooked when it comes to the viability of clean energy in coming years, the report remained confident that recent growth in renewable sources such as solar and wind would not be squelched by the so-called U.S. "Shale Gale."
"Some argue that America's cheap natural gas will crowd out clean energy technologies, but we strongly believe this is not the case as solar and wind have seen record deployment in recent years," the report's authors noted. "Instead, it appears that the future of energy in the U.S. belongs to a mix of clean energy, improved efficiency, and responsible natural gas resource development."