Why poor profits in renewable energy are good news

In writing my Monday article in Climate Spectator (Where are solar prices heading?, June 4), it occurred to me that there is an incredible amount of innovation and improvement occurring in the wind and solar energy industries, but no one seems to be making much money out of it. We’re able to get vastly more energy out of the wind and the sun with less inputs and costs, but the companies and countries that are coming up with these innovations don’t seem to be able to exclude others from cashing-in for very long.

First it was the Americans who led the world in wind and solar, but then they got overtaken by the Danes and the Germans in wind and the Japanese and the Germans in solar PV. The US did manage to reassert itself in both wind and solar PV, but then the Chinese came along and ruined it for everyone.

You name a major name in renewable energy and every one of them is facing slim margins and stiff competition. Vestas got involved early, has brilliant technology, good quality manufacturing, a great brand and global scale, but the margins it makes couldn’t even manage to get Marius Kloppers out of bed. The same goes for Sunpower, Suntech, and First Solar in the solar PV sector. Even industrial giants such as Siemens, GE and Kyocera find the going tough. Being the first into the market, with great reputation and technology is good, but there are plenty of challengers breathing down your neck that won’t grant you any slack… Read more

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