A Different Number to Think About: 257 (Think renewable energy investment dollars).

This is a special week in the U.S., a time to celebrate through numbers. Because most of us are focused on the fourth, I thought I'd play into this week's short-term obsession with numbers.
By Luke Geiver | July 03, 2012

This is a special week in the U.S., a time to celebrate through numbers. Because most of us are focused on the fourth, I thought I’d play into this week’s short-term obsession with numbers, pointing out that wood pellet producers, suppliers, service and equipment providers and most notably, project developers, have their own reason to celebrate.

A new report, the Renewables Global Status Report 2012, is a 127-page explanation of why renewable energy investment is not just trending upwards, new global investment is setting records. In fiscal year 2011, investment rose 17 percent, reaching $257 billion, according to the report. Compared to 2004, that number is six times greater, and compared to 2007 (the year the global crisis hit) 2011’s investment percentage is an astounding 94 percent greater. This investment increase, the report points out, took place at a time of uncertainty about economic growth and policy priorities in developed countries.

Investment dollars for biomass power reached $10.6 billion in 2011, according to the report. For all asset financing within the biomass-to-energy sector, solid biomass use accounted for 71 percent of the money invested. Among all solid biomass fuels, and this should come as little surprise, “the manufacture of wood pellets has experienced the most significant growth over the last 10 years,” the report said. Between 2000 and 2011, the pellet production industry grew by an average of 25 percent annually. Although the big three of the pellet production and consumption countries remains the U.S., Canada and Europe (countries in Europe include Germany, Sweden, Austria and Poland, among others), the report also points out that other countries are getting into the pellet production and consumption game. Russia and China are catching up, showing production capacities of 2 and 0.75 million metric tons annually for 2011.

In addition to those figures which allude to the promise and positive financial future for wood pellet production and use around the world, the report also shows that the U.S. could be catching up on the wood pellet thermal application side. Between 2000 and 2010, the report said, household heating from woody biomass combustion grew 34 percent, a faster rate than any other heating fuel. Today, wood pellets are the fourth largest residential heating source in the U.S.

Of the two types of investment that saw the most significant growth in 2011, both are linked to woody biomass use or biomass-to-energy. Asset finance of utility-scale (1 MW-plus) renewable power plants, biofuel refineries and small-scale distributed capacity all showed growth.

There is more information within the report of course, but even this small sampling shows that for all of us focused on numbers this week, there’s reason to celebrate.

For the entire report