At its annual shareholder meeting yesterday in Jersey City, New Jersey, the investment bank Goldman Sachs made a public commitment to invest at least $40bn over the next decade in a range of renewable energy projects around the world.

As the Godfather of Wall Street, the investor confidence that Goldman Sachs is showing towards clean tech industries in general, and to renewable energy in particular, is significant. Where Goldman Sachs leads, other profit-hungry investors are sure to follow.

The news of the Goldman Sachs decision was first reported by Reuters on Wednesday. 

With classic Goldman Sachs understatement, Stuart Bernstein, head of the clean technology and renewables investment banking group, said: "This is another emerging opportunity we think will be quite large." 

He was apparently comparing this new venture with the lucrative foray that Goldman Sachs made into emerging markets at the start of the last decade.

The story was also timely as today the UK government Department for Business Innovation and Skills released a report on the economic value of low carbon and clean tech goods and services – the commonly named ‘green economy’.

Globally, the report states, sales in this sector during 2010-11 were £3.3 trillion, an annual increase of 3.7%. Of this, low carbon technology sales formed 48% of the total at £1.6 trillion, compared with renewable energy at 31% or £1 trillion, and environmental goods and services at 21% or £0.7 trillion.

The countries with the fastest growth in this sector are predominantly from the developing world: the Philippines (39%), Ukraine (16%), Pakistan (15%), the Czech Republic (13%), Saudi Arabia (13%), Turkey (13%) and Brazil (12%), mostly because they are starting from a lower base.

In the UK itself, now in a double-dip recession, the green economy sector grew by 4.7% in the last year, adding £5.4bn to the otherwise struggling economy.

Growth in Britain is led in particular by the increasing use of alternative fuels such as biofuels, wind power, building technologies and heat pumps.

In addition and looking ahead, the BIS report states that growth projections in the sector as a whole demonstrate a steady and sustainable trajectory, with annual forecasts increasing at between 3.9% and 4%. Renewable energy shows the highest level of growth at 4.5%, with environmental services lowest at 3.4%. This would seem to confirm how smart Goldman Sachs are in deciding to focus on renewable energy investments across the planet.

In a separate positive move, Reuters also report that Goldman Sachs has pledged to “reduce its own net carbon emissions to zero by 2020”.