You Know What’s Cool? A Trillion Dollars…

January 3, 2012



In the Facebook-inspired movie “The Social Network,” Justin Timberlake-as- Sean Parker memorably defines a meaningful amount of money: “A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.”

In the energy world, you’d better multiply all seemingly huge numbers by 1,000. A billion dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A trillion dollars. Here’s why.

Sometime in the two weeks before the UN climate conference in Durban, the world passed $1 trillion mark in clean energy investment since 2004. That’s a trillion dollars in solar and wind power plants, in bioenergy production facilities, in smart meters and smart grids, in assets, public markets, research and development.

Even for the energy world, it’s a big number, and one that grew quickly. The world invested $52 billion in clean energy in 2004, and $243 billion last year. That’s a 29 percent compound growth rate, sufficient for total yearly investment to double in less than three years. It’s capital deployment that has increased every year even with tremendous macroeconomic headwinds and uncertain policies in Europe and the US. Last year’s $243 billion is right about halfway to the yearly investment which Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates is necessary to slow climate change.


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