Some of the largest countries on Earth made it clear this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that, in many cases, renewable energy is just a few years away from reaching grid parity with fossil fuels without subsidies. Worldwide investment in renewable energy totaled $187 billion in 2010, while investment in coal and natural gas was $157 billion. With government subsidies worldwide in jeopardy because of financial woes, the International Energy Agency says countries should hold on for just a few more years until renewables catch up to emissions-laden power companies — which could happen as early as 2015 — after which, it is anyone’s game.

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Zhengrong Shi, CEO of Suntech Power holdings said that solar is on track to reach grid parity with coal by 2015 in at least 50 percent of the world’s markets. Vestas, a world leader in turbine manufacturing, expects their turbines to be cost-competitive without incentives “in the coming years”. Jifan Gao, CEO of Trina Solar Ltd. told Bloomberg news he expected his company to be competitive within a decade everywhere and that it is near grid parity in some places already.

With President Barack Obama on the stump this week about his vision for the future of clean energy, he seems to be getting led slightly astray from renewables and into the world of natural gas. Perhaps the news from Davos of grid parity being so close could help sway him back to the real energy of the future, which causes the least amount of environmental harm possible and emits zero emissions. “Davos is the one place the most important decision makers of the world — be it government or business — converge,” Chairman of Suzlon Energy Ltd. Tulsi Tanti told Bloomberg News. “The most crucial issue this year will be to argue for policy certainty despite the economic environment.”

In the United States a tax credit for wind turbines could expire at the end of the year that would cause companies like Vestas to fire up to 1,600 people. Perhaps with the knowledge that a cost competitive future with fossil fuels is so close, government officials will be willing to hold onto those subsidies for just a little while longer while the real clean energy industry gets a firm foothold.

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