Renewable energy commercialization involves the deployment of three generations of renewable energy technologies dating back more than 100 years. First-generation technologies, which are already mature and economically competitive, include biomass, hydroelectricity, geothermal power and heat. Second-generation technologies are market-ready and are being deployed at the present time; they include solar heating, photovoltaics, wind power, solar thermal power stations, and modern forms of bioenergy. Third-generation technologies require continued R&D efforts in order to make large contributions on a global scale and include advanced biomass gasification, hot-dry-rock geothermal power, and ocean energy.
Total investment in renewable energy reached $257 billion in 2011, up from $211 billion in 2010. The top countries for investment in 2011 were China, Germany, Spain, the United States, Italy, and Brazil. Continued growth for the renewable energy sector and promotional policies helped the industry weather the 2009 economic crisis better than many other sectors. U.S. President Barack Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 included more than $70 billion in direct spending and tax credits for clean energy and associated transportation programs. Clean Edge suggests that the commercialization of clean energy has helped countries around the world pull out of the 2009 global financial crisis.
As of 2012, renewable energy accounts for almost half of new nameplate electricity capacity installed and costs are continuing to fall. Public policy and political leadership helps to "level the playing field" and drive the wider acceptance of renewable energy technologies. As of 2011, 118 countries have targets for their own renewable energy futures, and have enacted wide-ranging public policies to promote renewables. Climate change concerns are driving increasing growth in the renewable energy industries. Leading renewable energy companies include BrightSource Energy, First Solar, Gamesa, GE Energy, Goldwind, Sinovel, Suntech, Trina Solar, Vestas and Yingli.
Economic analysts expect market gains for renewable energy (and efficient energy use) following the 2011 Japanese nuclear accidents. In his 2012 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama restated his commitment to renewable energy and mentioned the long-standing Interior Department commitment to permit 10,000 MW of renewable energy projects on public land in 2012. Globally, there are an estimated 3 million direct jobs in renewable energy industries, with about half of them in the biofuels industry. According to a 2011 projection by the (IEA)International Energy Agency, solar power generators may produce most of the world's electricity within 50 years, dramatically reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
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