Despite declining oil prices, clean-energy investment rose worldwide last year by 16 percent to $310 billion.
China led the way, reports Bloomberg Energy Finance, increasing its investment in low-carbon energy to $89.5 billion. Investment in clean energy reached $66 billion in Europe and $51.8 billion in the United States, the most here since 2012.
Bloomberg reports that Japan is the second-biggest market for solar power, behind China, lifting Japan's funding for renewables to $41.3 billion.
Considering the strides the rest of the world is making, it's easy to get depressed about Kentucky's future when so many of our politicians remain loudly and defiantly rooted in a dirty-energy past.
On the brighter side, prominent Kentucky interests are not content to be left behind, as a few recent examples suggest:
■ Toyota in Georgetown will soon be tapping methane from a Waste Services of the Bluegrass landfill in Scott County to generate a megawatt of electricity an hour — enough to power 800 homes or build 10,000 vehicles a year.
Not only will Toyota be pulling less power from the grid, the project will also cut heat-trapping emissions from the landfill by as much as 90 percent while improving local air quality. The clean power generation is expected to go on line this spring.
■ Kentucky Utilities is building Kentucky's first solar-powered commercial generation facility at the E.W. Brown Station in Mercer County, where power is now produced using coal and natural gas.
The 10-megawatt (enough to power 8,000 homes) installation will be made up of about 260 photovoltaic panels and related equipment on a 153-acre tract.
Smaller-scale, localized energy projects such as Toyota's are attracting attention and money. Investment in so-called distributed power grew 34 percent last year to $73.5 billion, Bloomberg reports.
If KU's solar experiment succeeds, it could pave the way for more small-scale renewable generation in Kentucky.
■ The University of Kentucky's Center for Applied Energy Research is capitalizing on its longtime work on low-cost, high-strength carbon fibers for building lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
It was announced last week that UK is part of a $259 million federal initiative, led by the University of Tennessee, to create stronger, lighter-weight composite materials and technologies for the automotive, wind turbine and compressed gas storage industries.
Clean energy investments are already creating jobs in Kentucky. Imagine how much more the state could benefit if our coal-possessed legislature enacted smarter energy policies and incentives.