Procurement · 2 October 2018

Global crackdown on harmful emissions drives surge in green energy patents

renewable energy
“Green” energy products are increasingly being patented

Innovation in the renewable energy sector is ramping up as governments around the globe crack down on harmful emissions.

EMW, the commercial law firm, has revealed that over 14,800 renewable energy patents were filed globally in 2017, up 43% on the 10,500 filed in 2016.

Patents for solar power, wind energy, biofuels, hydropower, geothermal energy and waste-generated energy have almost doubled over the last five years, up from 7,700 in 2013.

EMW said 56% of the total “green” energy patents filed in 2017 were for solar power.

China led the way with companies there filing 76% of the renewable energy patents in 2017. China is currently the biggest manufacturer of solar panel technology and invested more than $44bn in clean-energy projects in 2017.

The US was in second place filing 10%, with Australia third, India fourth and Canada fifth. The UK was in seventh position filing 44 patents, representing 0.3% of the total.

EMW said green energy products were increasingly being patented as the cost of renewable energy production falls, incentivising companies to invest more into innovation and R&D. The renewable energy industry is also becoming more profitable and is now less reliant on government subsidies.

“The rising profitability of ‘green’ energy has prompted many companies to invest in developing and patenting filings as innovation races ahead,” said James Geary, principal at EMW.

“International efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and cut carbon emissions by focusing on renewables has continued to grow. China, for example, set emissions limits in 2017 for power companies’ use of fossil fuels, as part of efforts to slow down their consumption of coal, gas and oil.

“As a result, more companies globally are now increasingly incentivised to invest in R&D. In addition, many companies are also now enthusiastic to highlight their ‘green’ credentials in response to growing public and consumer awareness of environmental concerns.”

However, he added that there were worries that the US could see a drop in patenting green products as the Trump administration looks to cut government research spending in the industry.

Geary said: “The slight rise may also be in part due to concerns about the effect that Brexit may have on the proposed European Unitary Patent system. Some businesses may be racing to patent products, to avoid potential difficulties if obtaining patents in EU countries become more difficult than is currently the case.”

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