Analysts: Global, US green energy investment slid in ‘12

“Indeed, the most striking aspect of these figures is that the decline was not bigger, given the fierce headwinds the clean-energy sector faced in 2012 as a result of policy uncertainty, the ongoing European fiscal crisis and continuing sharp falls in technology costs,” he said.

The U.S. experienced a steep, 32 percent drop amid fears that a popular wind energy tax credit would lapse (it ultimately was extended in the “fiscal cliff” deal), and as renewable power faced competition from low-cost natural gas.

The company said wind investment also fell in Spain, which enacted a moratorium on subsidies for projects that have not yet been approved; India, where wind incentives expired; and Italy.

Investment in China was up 20 percent. It also increased in South Africa and in Japan, where there’s fresh emphasis on renewable energy after the 2011 nuclear accident, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance tracks various types of project funding, corporate and government research and development, and more. From the group's summary:

Looking at the 2012 data in more detail, the new investment total of $268.7bn was made up of five main parts. The largest of these was asset finance of utility-scale renewable energy projects, such as wind farms, solar parks and biofuel plants. This totaled $148.6bn, down from $180bn in 2011. Next biggest was small-scale project investment, primarily rooftop solar, which came in at $80.2bn, up from $76.5bn in the previous year. Corporate and government research and development totaled $30.2bn in 2012, up marginally on 2011.

The other elements were venture capital and private equity investment in specialist clean energy companies, which fell 34% to $5.8bn, its lowest figure since 2006; and public market investment in quoted companies. The latter fell 57% to $5.1bn, the lowest since 2004, and down 80% on the peak figure of $25.6bn in 2007.