By Deb Courson

While the green industry continues to bloom worldwide, a new report finds the United States as a whole is falling behind in investments in the clean-energy sector.

The U.S. maintained the top spot until 2008, according to research from the Pew Charitable Trusts, but fell in 2010 to third behind China and Germany. The report’s rankings show a connection between strong government energy policies and investment levels.

Peggy Beltrone, president of Exergy Integrated Systems, says her company is designing new technologies and hopes to have its new wind turbine in place in Montana in three years, employing more than 200 people. However, she cites uncertainty at the state and federal levels.

“The up-and-down of our energy policy. Projects can’t get funding because financial markets (are) not seeing stable policy. It really hits you at eye level.”

Clean-energy investments are up 30 percent globally, the report notes, and the U.S. still is seen as a leader in developing the next generation of clean-energy technologies and products.

Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Clean Energy Program, sees fast-growing competition to gather up investment cash, whether from the private or public sectors. She wants the report to serve as notice to the U.S. that action needs to be taken soon to become the major exporter of clean energy technologies and products.

“As the size of the industry grows, so do the stakes. Countries are adopting policies and programs to attract investment and create manufacturing opportunities.”

Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, compares the clean-energy race to the Internet race to make the point that it’s important for the U.S. to be the leader.

“If you can imagine a world (in which) Google and Twitter and eBay and Amazon are all Chinese companies, how does that work for the U.S. economy?”

The full report, “Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race?”, is online at ht.ly/4p2te.