Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Tanfield: Electric vehicle firm 'faces car crash'

Dan Milmo and Eloise Veljovic
The Guardian,
Wednesday July 2, 2008

Executives at one of Britain's greenest manufacturing companies, Tanfield, were in talks with investors last night after a drastic profit warning hit shares in the company.
Tanfield makes electric vehicles including milk floats but problems with sales of its biggest product, cherry-picker lifts, triggered an 80% slump in its already depressed share price yesterday. The Tyne and Wear-based firm said revenue growth would be significantly lower than forecast because the global credit crisis has hit demand at its powered platforms business. Tanfield's shares closed at 5.9p, compared with a 12-month high of 203.5p.
The company said its main distributors and customers for powered platforms, used on oil rigs and construction sites, had been affected by spending freezes and a drought in the credit markets. Tanfield said it had taken action "immediately" to postpone US expansion plans.
Its board said in a statement that year-on-year revenue growth would be "at a significantly lower level than previously forecast". Tanfield's chief executive, Darren Kell, and finance director, Charles Brooks, were in talks with shareholders and unavailable for comment last night. A spokesman denied Tanfield was seeking further funds, but analysts were gloomy about its prospects. One broker said the move in the share price increased the difficulty of emergency fund raising. "This has the makings of a total car crash," Evolution Securities said in a note.
Tanfield's profits are now expected to fall to £14m, against forecasts of a £43.4m profit, according to the company's house broker, St Helens Capital.

Map reveals extent of deforestation in tropical countries

Ian Sample, science correspondent,
Tuesday July 1, 2008

Scientists found that almost half of the deforested land was in Brazil. The red areas show where forest cover has reduced by 50% between 2000 and 2005. Photograph: National Academy of Sciences
A map of the world's tropical forests has revealed that millions of hectares of trees were cut back to make way for crops in recent years.
Created from high-resolution satellite images, the map shows the extent of deforestation in the tropics with unprecedented accuracy.
Between 2000 and 2005, at least 27.2m hectares (68m acres) of tropical forests were cleared to make way for farming. Almost half of the deforested land was in Brazil, nearly four times more than the next most deforested country, Indonesia, which accounted for 12.8% of cleared land.
Scientists led by Matthew Hansen at South Dakota State University created the map to help inform conservationists and politicians about the state of the world's forests. While figures on deforestation are already compiled by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, they are based on unverified estimates submitted by individual countries, and rarely describe where in a country forests are being cleared.
Recent estimates by the UN suggest that around 13m hectares of the world's forests are lost to deforestation each year, with South America alone losing more than 4m hectares a year.
"We wanted to be able to pinpoint exactly where deforestation was happening, because that gives you much more information for policy makers to act upon," said Fred Stolle at Conservation International in Washington DC.
The scientists collected images taken between 2000 and 2005 by Nasa's Modis satellite network, which photographs the surface of the Earth every one to two days in 500m-wide snapshots.
The researchers used the images to identify deforestation "hotspots" in the tropics, and then created a detailed map using a second satellite network called Landsat, which is accurate to within 30m.
According to the map, over the five-year period, Brazil lost 3.6% of its forest cover, Indonesia 3.4%, Latin America 1.2%, the rest of Asia 2.7% and Africa 0.8%. The study appears in the US journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The map showed that deforestation in Indonesia was largely concentrated in just two regions, and that much of it was peatland. "The peatlands are essentially all carbon, so if you clear it and fire it, an enormous amount of carbon will be emitted into the atmosphere," said Stolle. "Without a precise map, we would not know that level of detail."
The researchers hope to produce annual updates of the map to show trends in deforestation.
The map is a conservative estimate of deforestation because it only shows where forests have been cut down and not replaced. It does not take into account selective logging, areas where forests have been replanted, or general degradation of forests.

Emission control - Carbon Trust - China

Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Wednesday July 2, 2008

The Carbon Trust, an independent company set up by the government to help Britain reduce its CO2 emissions, is to export its skills for the first time, opening an office in Beijing to help the fast-growing Chinese business sector reduce its carbon footprint.
A memorandum of understanding will be signed today between the Carbon Trust and the China Energy Conservation Investment Corporation to promote and lead the advance of the energy efficiency and environmental protection industries in the world's most populous nation. A first study will measure the carbon output in the supply chain of up to 10 Chinese manufactured products and put a product-labelling scheme in place based on a standard specification developed and used in Britain by the Carbon Trust, which assesses the carbon impact over the life cycle of goods and services.
Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust, said: "China has a crucial role to play in accelerating the move to a global, low-carbon economy and represents an exciting new market for clean technology businesses." The move was welcomed by the foreign secretary, David Miliband, who praised the role played in the deal by the British embassy in Beijing.

Going for green (London Olympics)

London aims to host the most sustainable Olympics ever in 2012, but there are a number of reasons why we should be sceptical
Graeme Hayes
The Guardian,
Wednesday July 2, 2008

Behind the fence that surrounds the Olympic site in east London, work is under way, preparing the ground for the "best Olympics yet". But being best won't simply be about medals, architecture, revenue and spectators. London 2012 also aspires to host the "most sustainable" games ever. For the organising committee, Locog, this means carefully managing the wildlife habitats of the Lower Lea Valley and establishing environmentally sensitive carbon, energy and waste plans. It also means sourcing materials and supplies responsibly - and, where possible, locally.
For London, sustainability is an important goal. As a global showpiece event, the Olympics can promote an environmentally positive message to a television audience of more than 3 billion people. But is this simply greenwash? Despite London's sustainability plan, it was also the largest, the most costly and the most complex of the credible bids for the 2012 games. Paris and Madrid offered cheaper, more compact, more environmentally focused bids. And Athens, Beijing and Vancouver have all attracted fierce criticism for their poor environmental records.
It is now a regular occurrence for host cities to promote their Olympics as the greenest to date. In the mid-1990s, following two decades of games punctuated by terrorism, public debt, political boycotts, corruption, doping scandals and, at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, massive environmental damage, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) declared the environment to be the "third dimension" of the games - alongside sport and culture.
The 2000 games in Sydney was a watershed, being environmentally sensitive on pollution control, brownfield site clearance, species conservation and energy efficiency. London is pioneering decentralised energy systems, and the Olympic park will be powered by a combined cooling, heat and power plant fuelled by woodchip and natural gas.
The promotion of "green Olympics" has increased as the emphasis has shifted from host nations to host cities. Hosts want the Olympics to encourage global capital to "touch down" in their redeveloped city, creating jobs and growth. Globally competitive cities want to project themselves as environmental modernisers.
But the Olympic message is also that the games have a positive effect on host cities - and, by extension, host nations. Hosting the games can accelerate the introduction of environmental considerations across public policy. The games thus work as a lever for better environmental stewardship.
Yet we have a duty to remain sceptical about these claims, on three counts. First, because the environmental initiatives promoted by the games are not necessarily additional measures. Staging the Olympics might improve coordination and promotion, but often civic and market pressures ensure new measures are introduced anyway. London's decentralised energy plan responds to a more pressing climate change agenda than the hosting of a sporting event. The redevelopment of the Lea Valley is just a part of the Thames Gateway project, and would have gone ahead without the games.
Second, as the organisation of the 2012 games staggers from budgetary crisis to budgetary crisis, we need to ask: which measures are most expendable? Locog has ambitious plans for habitat protection and waste management, for example; the environmental impact of the games depends on maintaining the funding of these programmes.
Third, there is a glaring incompatibility between the games and the core tenets of environmentalism. While environmentalism is based on the three Rs - reduce, re-use, recycle - the games are based on the Big More: more spectators, more sales, more jobs, more tourists, more growth, more infrastructure. This brings enormous contradictions.
Take the idea that holding the games in highly polluted Beijing will steer China towards environmental and political modernisation. On one hand, through its Olympic partnership, General Electric is promoting "ecomagination" solutions to water purification and renewable energy; on the other, the games are the centrepiece of massive and accelerated industrial and infrastructural development. The beautiful "bird's nest" Olympic stadium is being built by migrant labour, and the UN estimates that 1.5 million people will have been forcibly evicted in Beijing to make way for the Olympics.
In Athens, nearly all the new venues for the 2004 games have now fallen into disrepair, with no sustainable use. Greenpeace and WWF produced damning reports on the environmental impacts of the Athens games. Criticisms include irreversible damage to wetlands and coastal areas, extensive encroachment on natural and agricultural landscapes, and no improvement in waste, water or energy management.
The Olympics is event staging as consumption-driven economic expansion, pushed by media, political and corporate interest coalitions and underwritten by public debt. The impact of the games is typically greatest on the poorest and most deprived sections of the urban population, who are forced to relocate by construction projects, and are priced out by post-games gentrification. And games-related investment further reduces the ability of public authorities to assure key welfare functions.
London has already attracted substantial criticism on forced rehousing issues - if not to the extent of, say, Barcelona, Seoul, Athens or Beijing. If the 2012 games adhere to the model established in industrial democracies over the last decade, we should also expect increases in surveillance and control, the securitisation and commercialisation of public space as the IOC protects its multinational sponsors, and the reduction of civil liberties and democratic accountability.
It will be a key challenge for Locog to manage the substantial carbon footprint created by the event. The Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, backed by environmental NGOs, including WWF and BioRegional, provides authoritative oversight. But carbon targets so far have proved to be less than ambitious, and London has recently confirmed it has no plans to make the games carbon neutral, despite developing best practice elsewhere. The plan to offset international travel emissions - by supporting projects in developing nations - is practically and ethically controversial.
Whether we see the Olympics' environmental message as an alibi for neoliberal corporate promotion depends in part on how we assess the legacy of the games. In Beijing, Vancouver and London, the next four years will provide an acid test of whether we should take the Olympic message of sustainable environmental politics seriously.
· Graeme Hayes is senior lecturer in languages and social sciences at Aston University.

Climate more urgent than economy, say voters

Julian Glover
The Guardian,
Wednesday July 2, 2008

Voters think that taking action against climate change matters more than tackling the global economic downturn, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. The results, which will delight green campaigners, suggest that support for environmental action is not collapsing as feared in the face of possible recession.
When asked whether tackling the environment or the economy - given global economic problems - should be the government's priority, 52% said the environment and 44% said the economy. That contradicts the widespread assumption that environmental issues are seen by voters as a luxury to be put aside in tough economic times.
Almost two-thirds of those questioned also backed the idea of introducing green taxes to discourage actions that harm the environment: 63% support new taxes, against 35% who are firmly against them.
The poll, commissioned as part of a Guardian series examining the impact of the economy on the environment, suggests that climate change is now a mainstream political issue, with the public appetite for action stronger than many politicians believe.
The high cost of many environmental schemes, such as the government's £100bn renewable energy plan announced last week, does not seem to have deterred voters.
But the poll, reflecting findings in earlier surveys, also shows people want the government to sort out the problem rather than take on responsibility themselves.
While most people place the environment ahead of the economy as a national priority, only 19% say they would actually choose to pay more for a more expensive environmentally friendly product while shopping. Far more people, 58%, would buy a cheaper alternative, even if it was less good for the environment.
Overall enthusiasm for measures such as green taxes also fades when voters are asked to make an immediate choice in the face of economic troubles. While two-thirds back them in principle, only 30% think the government should be introducing them now, irrespective of the economy.
The number of people who oppose green taxes outright is small - only 31% say this, even after they have been asked to consider the state of the economy. But 36% say the government should delay bringing them in. That suggests ministers may have a battle on their hands if they press on with plans to increase environmentally-beneficial taxes such as increased fuel duty and higher road tax on older polluting cars.
Today's poll also throws into question whether the environment is an issue that only matters to richer, southern voters. Although women are more likely than men to place the environment ahead of the economy as an issue - 55% of women say it is a priority, against 49% of men - support for action is strong across all ages, regions and social groups.
Far from being the greenest part of the population, middle-class voters are actually more sceptical than most about the need for action, perhaps because they fear they have more to lose from increased bills and taxes. Voters in the richest AB group are the only ones to place the economy ahead of the environment as a government priority: 50% say the economy and 47% the environment.
In the south-east of England 52% say the economy matters most, against 38% of Scots. Attitudes are more likely to be shaped by how much money people have and how much they might have to pay.
There is also no evidence that the environment is an issue that matters more to young people. Pensioners are almost as likely as people aged 18-24 to say climate change should be the government's priority.
· ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,002 adults aged 18-plus by telephone between June 28 and 29 2008. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full results and comment from the Guardian's Green Squeeze series available at

Doosan Babcock in £11m green project

A CLEAN energy research and development project was launched yesterday in Renfrew.
Doosan Babcock's £11 million programme, to be carried out from its research and development centre, aims to develop technology for power station boilers and environmental control systems.The centre currently employs more than 100 staff and a further 100 are expected to be recruited over the coming years.Scottish Enterprise has contributed £2.84m towards the project through its research and development grants scheme.Iain Miller, chief executive of Doosan Babcock Energy, said: "As energy demand increases worldwide as well as the need for major reductions in emissions, the need for research becomes ever more important. "The research is aimed at establishing Doosan Babcock as one of the world leaders in power plant and environmental control technologies, providing export opportunities as well as helping the UK meet its own targets for reduction."

Brazil fines 24 local ethanol producers for environmental crimes

The Associated Press
Published: July 1, 2008

BRASILIA, Brazil: Brazil has slapped multimillion-dollar fines on 24 ethanol producers accused of environmental crimes in the country's dwindling Atlantic rain forest, Environment Minister Carlos Minc said Tuesday.
The companies together face 120 million reals (US$75 million) in fines for operating without licenses and planting sugarcane in illegally deforested parts of one of Brazil's most threatened ecosystems, Minc said. They will also be required to restore 143,300 acres (58,000 hectares) of degraded rain forest.
"We will not let companies that destroy the Atlantic rain forest have any peace," Minc told reporters. "If these environmental crimes continue, they will provide ammunition for those who want to slap trade barriers on the export of Brazilian ethanol."
International criticism of Brazil's massive sugarcane-based ethanol industry is mounting, with opponents saying it encourages environmental destruction and inflates world food prices. Brazilian officials deny those claims and note that ethanol producers are required to preserve much of their land.
The companies fined this week — mostly small Brazilian producers — violated rules requiring them to leave 20 percent of their forest lands untouched, Minc said.

The Atlantic rain forest once lined most of Brazil's coast, but only about 8 percent remains. In contrast, about 80 percent of the Amazon rain forest is intact, as laws there require land owners to keep 80 percent of their property as forest reserves.
Brazil is the world's largest ethanol exporter, and the second-largest producer after the United States. Its sugarcane-based fuel is significantly more efficient than the corn used to make U.S. ethanol.

India tackles climate change with renewable energy

Maseeh Rahman in Delhi,
Tuesday July 1, 2008

India has for the first time indicated its willingness to work with China to combat the effects of climate change in the Himalayas. Photographer: Frederic Soltan
Solar power and other renewable energy sources will get priority under India's climate action plan (pdf) unveiled by prime minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi yesterday.
The plan does not commit to a target for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, placing a greater emphasis on continued economic growth. However, it does seek to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and increase energy efficiency.
"Our vision is to make India's economic development energy-efficient," said Singh. "Over a period of time, we must pioneer a graduated shift from economic activity based on fossil fuels to one based on non-fossil fuels."
Eight "national missions" will be set up to form the core of the climate action plan. Besides solar energy and energy efficiency, there will also be initiatives that focus on water use, afforestation, agriculture, sustainability in urban environments, the Himalayan ecosystem and scientific research.
India unveiled its climate action plan ahead of next week's G8 summit in Japan which is expected to include measures on how to combat climate change. Singh will be attending, as India is one of the four special invitees.
A general election in India is expected early next year, but observers believe this should not derail the climate action plan. "The missions have to define their work plan by December," said Dr Leena Srivastava, executive director of the Tata Energy Research Institute. "This is adequate time, especially since there is already an elaborate technical report providing a basis."
India is the fourth biggest contributor of greenhouse gases in the world, adding around 4% of the global total. But its annual per capita emissions remain low at 1.2 tonnes, compared with 20 tonnes in the US and the world average of 4 tonnes. It therefore argues that the developed world, which is responsible for the majority of emissions, should take the greater responsibility for cuts.
"For a country with over 50% of its population without access to electricity, 90% of its rural population dependent on biomass to meet cooking requirements, and over 70% of its required infrastructure yet to come in place, it is unreasonable to expect targets for emission control," said Srivastava.
By setting up an initiative on the Himalayan ecosystem, India has for the first time also signalled its willingness to launch a joint effort to combat the impacts of climate change not just with its South Asian neighbours but also with China.
It will bring together climatologists, glaciologists and other experts to develop measures for sustaining and safeguarding the Himalayan glaciers and ecosystems now under threat from global warming.

Renewables will live to tell the tale

People are queueing up to invest in clean energy, through the credit crunch and beyond

Jeremy Leggett,
Tuesday July 1, 2008

At the turn of the century, just before the last downturn, I was busy with some Swiss bankers setting up the world's first private equity fund for renewable energy. Many people professing to know something about energy markets thought we were wrongheaded. Renewable technologies mostly languished in cottage industries. Silicon Valley players, pre-occupied with what they didn't yet know would be the last days of the boom, generally weren't interested in investing. Electric utilities tended to believe the future would be run on gas. Car companies did a little dabbling in fuel cells or hydrogen if you were lucky. Today, everything has changed. In the solar industry, trade shows that looked like cottage industry fairs in 2000 now host giants of the digital revolution selling entire bespoke factories that by 2010 will have gigawatt-a-year capacities.
Investment is flooding into the renewables sector, not least from Silicon Valley. Investment in all kinds in renewables exceeded $100bn for the first time last year. Leading venture capitalists today scour no less than 50 attractive families of technologies for their cleantech investments. Electric utilities tend increasingly to go through the motions on nuclear, coal and carbon-capture, meanwhile placing ever-bigger bets on renewables. Car companies are showing a clear preference for electric battery vehicles, and hybrids.
I believe the renewables industry is going to survive the downturn very well. Indeed, it will be one of the few sectors to prosper. Everybody needs energy, even in the bad times.
In 2000, most of the people I met who were true believers in a renewable-powered future were environmental campaigners. Today, I meet true believers spanning a wide spectrum, including right across the business world. Wal-Mart, for example, has a plan to power all its stores, worldwide, with renewables. It is pressuring its suppliers, including a major client of my company Solarcentury, to follow suit. The financiers I work with on the Swiss investment fund are now one investment team among many. I see the excitement in the faces of the investment managers at every board meeting. Scottish and Southern Energy, Solarcentury's utility partner, has opted for an all-out drive to be the number-one renewables player in the UK. I feel the seriousness of their intent whenever I meet with their management.
One of the partners in one of the venture capital companies invested in Solarcentury is a former CIA director, James Woolsey. He has an explanation for what is going on. Two great drivers are gathering behind renewables markets, he argues. One is global warming. The other is energy security. You can believe in one, or the other, or both. You are a fool if you believe in neither. Jim is not alone in this view. As the CEO of Renault-Nissan recently put it, when announcing that his company would be focusing on electric battery vehicles: "We must have zero-emission vehicles. Nothing else will prevent the world from exploding."
In the media, the Economist is among the many organs that now understand what is going on. Yet I remember well how they scoffed a decade ago. At the Berlin climate summit in 1995, an editorial remarked: "Most actions (to cut carbon emissions) would pose a bigger threat to human wellbeing than does global warming." Last week, in contrast, we read the following about the prospect of replacing fossil fuels with clean energy: "Such a failure of imagination [the idea that we can't do it] has been at the heart of the debate about climate change." A special report on the future of energy is written throughout with optimism of the kind I espouse. "Some think alternative energy will be the basis of a boom bigger than information technology", the editorial concludes.
So I find myself – an ex Greenpeace campaigner who believed renewables could replace fossil fuels as long ago as 1990 – now, finally, squarely on the same sheet as the Economist.
The renewables industry I know best is photovoltaics (PV). The global market in PV grew by 67% last year. As the price of electricity and oil soars, the manufacturing cost of PV continues to fall. Many people in the PV industry now think "grid parity" – the time that solar electricity costs less than gas-and coal-fired electricity – is just a few years away, in all markets. True or not, it is inevitable now that grid parity will be reached. At that point a mass market will emerge at a speed that will amaze most people, embarrass supposed energy pundits, and leave cynical economists exposed for the blowhards they are.
All this raises one big question. Can the clean energy revolution unfold in time to save society from the worst impacts of the current energy-crisis/climate-crisis double crunch? The answer is "just maybe". Provided we mobilise as though for war, accelerate the trends already underway in clean energy, and price carbon the way we should if we truly believe that climate meltdown and/or energy supply threats could torpedo our economies.
But will we?

Clean tech: Green energy is the modern gold rush

Alternative power Investors are falling over themselves to put cash into the search for cleaner fuels
Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Wednesday July 2, 2008

The "clean tech" sector has bounced back from the credit crunch with new global figures showing a resurgence of interest from investors in alternative energy - labelled a "green Klondike" that could reach $600bn annually by 2020.
New Energy Finance, a specialist consultant which has compiled the latest figures for the United Nations environment programme, says money raised and spent during 2008 should be ahead of 2007, a banner year when annual investment levels grew 60% to reach almost $150bn (£73bn).
"Just as thousands were drawn to California and the Klondike in the late 1800s, the green energy gold rush is attracting legions of modern day prospectors in all parts of the globe," said Achim Steiner, the head of the UN's environment programme.
"More than a century later, the key difference is that a higher proportion of those looking for riches today may find them. With world temperatures rising and fossil fuel prices climbing higher, it is obvious to the public and investors alike that the transition to a low-carbon society is both a global imperative and an inevitability," added Steiner as he launched the report, Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment 2008.
The UN admits that the last half-year has been a turbulent period as a result of the credit crunch which has sent shares reeling across most sectors and undermined investors' appetite for risk. The volume of new money coming into the wind, solar and biomass sector from the capital markets fell off in the first three months of 2008, with $1bn of new investment compared with a figure of $12.8bn in the last quarter of 2007. The most recent 12 weeks have seen a recovery, with $4.3bn splashed out - in line with the average quarterly figures seen in 2007, which was a bumper year for clean tech, according to London-based New Energy Finance.
"There are clear signs that the clean tech sector is proving more resilient than other sectors such as mainstream construction which is in recession in some parts of the world," said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of New Energy Finance. "We saw 60% growth in 2007 and the overall expectations for this year will be that the numbers will either move sideways or slightly up on the $148bn seen in 2007," he said.
Michael McNamara, clean tech analyst at US investment house Jefferies, is also upbeat: "The credit crunch did have some impact, but only on marginal projects and for every one cancelled there is always another one popping up. I am not seeing any shortage of calls."
The latest figures suggest the world is on track to spend $450bn per annum by 2012 and hit $600bn a year by 2020, according to the UN. New investment in all forms of energy, including oil and gas, is currently $1.3tn, meaning clean tech has already secured 10% of the new investment market. New Energy Finance points out that the amount of investment made by venture capitalists and private equity had risen strongly in the last quarter to $4.7bn, compared with $2.5bn in the first three months of the year and an average quarterly figure of between $3bn and $3.5bn during 2006 and 2007.
The figures for asset financing - the actual money being pumped into new projects such as wind farms, look less encouraging with $37bn in the fourth quarter of 2007 falling to $28bn in the first three months of 2008 and $19bn in the last 12 weeks.
The general rise in investment levels has partly been driven by new political initiatives coming from governments keen to improve energy security at a time of soaring oil prices as well as the drive to cut carbon emissions.
Last week, the British government set out a new set of ambitious policies to kickstart more investment in wind, wave and biomass.
The UN report shows wind attracting the most new money in 2007 ($50.2bn), but solar is growing at the most rapid rate year on year. The $28.6bn of new capital going into solar means that the sector has expanded annually at more than 250% since 2004.
The wind sector was given a huge boost by the $7.2bn flotation in December of the wind power development arm of the Spanish power group Iberdrola, the largest ever initial public offering in Spain.
The Chinese wind group Goldwind broke new ground when it raised $243m in December, in what was the Shenzhen stock exchange's first IPO-related solely to renewable energy.
Meanwhile Chinese solar companies raised $2.5bn on the US and European equity markets during 2007 while India became the fourth largest wind power producer in the world after attracting $2.5bn worth of asset financing for turbine projects.
Even in Africa, $1.3bn worth of asset finance was raised for a variety of sustainable energy schemes, mainly in biofuels and geothermal, reversing a gradual decline since 2004. Sub-Saharan Africa - "arguably the region that has most to gain from renewable energy" - remains largely unexploited, says the report.
Investment in energy efficiency last year reached a record of $1.8bn, an increase of 78% from 2006 with North America attracting the most funds despite the fact that its legislation lags behind that of Europe. The International Energy Agency claims that each $1 ploughed into energy efficiency on average avoids more than $2 needed to create new supply.
The report notes a change in attitudes that has taken place in the formerly conservative financial sector citing, as an example, the recent move by the top Wall Street investment banks Citi, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, to launch a set of Carbon Principles to guide the way they lend to and advise power companies in the US

Renewable energy in 'green gold rush'

Labelled a "green gold rush," global investment in renewable energy surged some 60 per cent to $148 billion in 2007
Robin Pagnamenta, Energy and Environment Editor

Global investment in renewable energy surged 60 per cent to $148 billion (74.3 billion) last year and is still accelerating despite the slowdown in the wider economy, according to the United Nations.
Wind energy attracted the biggest amount of around $50.2 billion and solar, the fastest growing area, attracted investment of $28.6 billion. Since 2004, the global market for solar energy has grown by annual rate of 254 per cent.
The report from the UN’s Environmental Programme (UNEP) likened the flood of investment to the renewable energy sector to a “green gold rush”.
“Just as thousands were drawn to California and the Klondike in the late 1800s, the green energy gold rush is attracting legions of modern day prospectors in all parts of the globe,” said Achim Steiner, head of UNEP.

In total, clean energy represented 23 per cent of all new installed capacity in 2007.
Public investment in renewable energy via the markets more than doubled to $23.4 billion, up from $10.6 billion in 2006, the report said.
While there was strong growth in wind and solar energy, the biofuel sector was weaker with funds dropping by nearly one third to $2.1 billion.
The report indicated that the renewable energy sector is set to expand to $450 billion by 2012, and $600 billion by 2020.
“We have a significant economic signal here, that goes well beyond what, 10 years ago, energy thinktanks or international financial institutions thought would happen,” Mr Steiner said.