While Europe was on the same level as North America last year—about USD 8.5 billion was invested in each region in 2011—Europe’s investments to date in 2012 add up to just USD 1.2 billion. Asset deals in the US and Canada amount to USD 6 billion so far this year, and with a few months left, might come close to reaching 2011 levels. Asian investments are likely to go beyond 2011 levels as USD 3.3 billion has already been spent this year, close to the USD 3.5 billion of last year.
Despite this reduction compared to 2011, the impasse facing renewable energy has been made clearer during this past quarter. The North American drought—with its impacts on the corn harvest—and a record low for Arctic sea ice cover this summer suggest that the effects of climate change are becoming more apparent and require a more concerted response. In the world of renewable energy, the effect of the growing renewables output on the grid is calling for quick adaptive action in both pricing and market capacity structure. This is particularly the case for Germany and China, the global leaders of clean energy. However, the European policy cutbacks, US policy uncertainty, and depressed carbon prices suggest anything but an urgent response by governments. In both the US and across Europe, renewable energy finds itself under a negative political spotlight as public concern over whether renewable energy surcharges are well spent is addressed.
Encouraging signs for the sector can still be found. In particular, a proposal to phase out nuclear energy is being discussed in Japan, which will be accompanied by a trebling of renewable energy to a 30 percent share by 2030. Furthermore, pilot projects that have been taking place in the storage technology sector have achieved positive results.