The global clean energy industry is set for a major crash. The reason is simple. Clean energy is still much more expensive and less reliable than coal or gas, and in an era of heightened budget austerity, the subsidies required to make clean energy artificially cheaper are becoming unsustainable.
The crash won't be limited to the United States. In many European countries, clean energy subsidies have become budget casualties as governments attempt to curb mounting deficits. Spain, Germany, France, Italy and the Czech Republic have all announced cuts to clean energy subsidies.
Such cuts are not universal, however. China, flush with cash, is bucking the trend, committing $760 billion over 10 years for clean energy projects. China is continuing to invest in low-carbon energy as a way of meeting its voracious energy demand, diversifying its electricity supply and alleviating some of the negative health consequences of its reliance on fossil energy.
If U.S. and European clean energy markets collapse while investment continues to ramp up in China, the short-term consequences will likely be a migration of much of the industry to Asia. As we wrote in our 2009 report, "Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant," this would have significant economic consequences for the United States, as the jobs, revenues and other benefits of clean tech growth accrue overseas.
The Coming Clean Tech Crash
I don't think the consequences will be short term. There's investment in infrastructure that will make it a "structural problem" to regain any foothold if we let China win this race.
How far would car ownership have gone without government paying for roads?