In a resource-constrained world, any country with the ability to build out a clean energy infrastructure is going to have an advantage. While we'd like to think that American ingenuity and elbow grease would put us in a good position, it increasingly appears that China—land of coal-fired power plants and endless smog—is at the forefront.
According to Ernst & Young's quarterly Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Indices, China is the most attractive country for renewable energy installations based on the size of its national renewable energy markets, renewable energy infrastructures, and suitability for individual technologies (i.e. wind and solar). The country has held the top spot since August 2010 thanks to some ambitious targets (11.3% of energy generated by non-fossil fuels by 2015) and support for shallow water offshore wind—something the U.S. has had plenty of trouble with.
We can see evidence of China's attractiveness in the amount of money invested in the country's clean energy sector—in 2010, private renewable energy investment in the country grew by 39% from the previous year to $54.4 billion in funding.
The U.S. isn't failing too badly, though. The country is in second place due to its support of utility scale solar (like all those giant solar projects in the desert). But the U.S.'s score hasn't budged since last quarter, mainly because the future of its clean energy policy depends on whether Obama's 2012 budget increases for renewable energy pan out. India, Germany, and Italy round out the top five for their support for solar and wind.
Perhaps the unluckiest country in the rankings is Japan, which dropped three spots to number 18 because of its focus on natural gas and oil imports—mostly a result of the Fukushima disaster that took a portion of the country's nuclear capacity offline. Unfortunately, that doesn't make Japan a particularly attractive country for renewable energy dollars (though this may be about to change with reported plans for massive solar installations).
If you've got money to invest in renewable energy, China is the place to be right now. Because when an autocratic government focuses on something, they focus hard.
[Image: Flickr user Peter Fuchs]