Global Greentech Stimulus Half Spent, Now What?

When it comes to green stimulus, the world is halfway done — and China and Japan lead in the race, according to a Tuesday report. But the United States is catching up, though not without some hiccups along the way.

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When it comes to green stimulus, the world is nearly halfway done. That’s according to a report out this morning from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (PDF), which says that of the nearly $200 billion in green stimulus promised by major economies around the globe in 2008, some $94.8 billion has been promised or put to use. Of that amount, the majority — $74.5 billion — was spent last year, BNEF said. It’s taken awhile for some green stimulus funds to get out the door — not surprising, considering the need for due diligence. Still, there have been some concerns that parties like the U.S. Department of Energy haven’t been moving fast enough. In August 2010, the DOE’s office of the inspector general found that only 8.4 percent of the $3.2 billion in state energy efficiency block grants had been disbursed, creating only 2,300 jobs, and in November, a leaked White House memo revealed concerns in the Obama Administration about the slow pace of loan guarantees for renewable energy projects. Since then, DOE has made some changes to the way it gives out loans and other stimulus-backed funds. As of September, DOE had obligated all but $1 billion of $32.7 billion in green stimulus grants and contracts, and while it had only spent $7.3 billion, Matt Rogers, former DOE stimulus program chief, said it would be spending about $1 billion a month over the next 18 months. Sounds like there’s plenty more green to go around.

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Green technology supporters who want to fight back against attacks on greentech government support might want to study up on the Washington Monthly magazine piece, “Get the Energy Sector off the Dole.” The article cites a raft of subsidies to the oil, natural gas and coal industries that cost U.S. taxpayers about $20 billion a year, including often-misused tax breaks for oil exploration and tax incentives for the problematic support of the U.S. corn-to-ethanol industry. About 70 percent of all federal energy subsidies go to fossil fuel industries, 15 percent go to ethanol, and 10 percent go to federal power entities like the Bonneville Power Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority, the article states, leaving only about 5 percent for all other clean energy subsidies put together. According to one study, subsidies to mature fossil fuel companies added up to $76 billion from 2002 to 2008 alone. Kinda helps put the $36 billion or so in Department of Energy stimulus-package backing for green energy projects in perspective, doesn’t it?

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While U.S. venture capitalists have led in global greentech startup investment, it’s developing economies that have driven the green public markets in 2010. That’s according to HSBC, which reported Wednesday that “climate-related” equities in emerging markets saw returns of 2.5 percent in 2010, compared with a 1.2 drop for developed markets. That’s no surprise, given that developing nations are doing well while U.S., European and Japanese economies remain sluggish. Brazil’s market led with 18 percent growth, followed by South Africa at 11.9 percent and South Korea at 6.8 percent. Still, the weight of developed markets dragged down global climate equity returns 0.7 percent for the year, the bank reported. HSBC also found that emerging markets gave out $77 billion in green stimulus, compared with $68 billion from developed nations. China led the way with 1.5 times more stimulus than the United States.

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It’s Friday — do you know what your Congress is doing? Here’s the latest out of Washington D.C. on greentech issues facing a Dec. 31 deadline amidst a frantic lame duck session. Good news for ethanol makers, as a one-year renewal of a 49 cent-per-gallon tax incentive has been included in a Senate tax bill. As for those stimulus-era grants in lieu of tax credits for wind and solar power projects, after a round of intense industry lobbying pressure, they’ve been included in the Senate tax bill as well. Not every greentech wish list item made it in, though — clean energy manufacturing credits seem to be left out. As for greentech research, a House bill would keep all science funding flat for next year, a figure that includes the $300 million the Obama Administration requested for its ARPA-E greentech research grant program. But it doesn’t come anywhere close to adding the $16 billion a year or so called for by high-profile greentech investors and supported by Energy Secretary Steven Chu to boost the United States’ competitiveness against countries like China.

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Another week, another $53.5 million in Department of Energy green tech funding. Friday is a good day to recap the week’s green stimulus events, which started on Tuesday with DOE giving $8.5 million to five projects aimed at integrating distributed solar power into the grid. Wednesday saw DOE hand out $16.5 million in bio-energy grants — $12 million for biofuel research and another $4.5 million to study how best to grow crops for fuel. And on Thursday, DOE gave $28.5 million in state energy efficiency block grants, mostly aimed at boosting building energy efficiency retrofit markets.

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Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu just finished a Tuesday morning press conference unveiling a White House report on how tens of billions of federal stimulus dollars are expected to boost the nation’s green technology prowess. As you might expect, the report makes some pretty big claims. It projects that Recovery Act spending will help double the nation’s renewable energy generation by 2012 and cut in half the cost of solar power by 2015, to bring it in line with the cost of retail electricity from today’s grid. It can also cut the cost of electric vehicle batteries by 70 percent from 2009 to 2015, to make EVs cost-competitive with their gasoline-fueled counterparts. Now all the White House needs to do is get the money out the door. As Earth2Tech’s Katie Fehrenbacher notes, there’s a Sept. 30 deadline looming for DOE to disburse $36 billion in green tech stimulus; as of a few weeks ago, none of the programs involved had allocated 100 percent of their funding.