The Economist writes in a special report:
Clean-energy fever is being fuelled by three things: high oil prices, fears over energy security and a growing concern about global warming. The provision of energy, the industry’s cheerleaders say, will change radically over the coming decades. Polluting coal- and gas-fired power stations will give way to cleaner alternatives such as solar and wind; fuels derived from plants and waste will supplant petrol and diesel; and small, local forms of electricity generation will replace mammoth power stations feeding far-flung grids. Eventually, it is hoped, fuel cells running on hydrogen will take the place of the ubiquitous internal combustion engine. It is a bold vision, but if it happens very slowly, or only to a limited extent, boosters argue that it will still prompt stupendous growth for firms in the business.
Analysts confidently predict the clean-energy business will grow by 20-30% a year for a decade. Jefferies, an investment bank that organised a recent conference on the industry in London, asked participants how soon solar power would become competitive with old-fashioned generation technologies: in 2010, 2015 or 2020. More distant dateslet alone neverwere not even discussed. About three-quarters of those present, one visitor gleefully observed, were cheque-writers. This megatrend, the keynote speaker gushed, may be the biggest job- and wealth-creation opportunity of the 21st century.