2010 RANKINGS: China Races Past U.S. in Green $

Perhaps the biggest eyebrow-raiser in Business Facilities’ 2010 Global Rankings is China’s astonishing rise to the top of the list of Alternative Energy Investment Leaders.

It seemed like only yesterday that everyone on the Western side of the globe was tut-tutting about the PRC surpassing the United States as the world’s leading source of greenhouse gas emissions. We all assumed that with double-digit growth fueled by hundreds of coal-fired power plants, China would need a couple of decades of retooling before it appeared on anybody’s list of alternative energy leaders. Well, we all need to think again.

China’s investments in renewable energy in 2009 exceeded those made by the previous global leader, the United States, for the first time, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

With its investments growing 50 percent in 2009, China committed $34.6 billion to wind power, solar energy and other forms of renewable energy, making it the word’s biggest investor in such projects. China invested nearly double the United States’ $18.6 billion, while the United Kingdom, which has a much smaller population, was the third-largest investor with $11.2 billion in 2009.

The study of investments by G-20 nations also found that China’s installed renewable energy capacity surged to 52.5 gigawatts, putting it just behind the United Ststes, which had 53.4 gigawatts of capacity in 2009.

“China is emerging as the world’s clean energy powerhouse,” wrote the report’s authors. “Having built a strong manufacturing base and export markets, China is working now to meet domestic demand by installing substantial new clean energy-generating capacity to meet ambitious renewable energy targets.”

Over the past six months alone, China has signed deals with American solar companies to build solar power plants that would generate 4,000 megawatts of electricity.