Investments in clean energy dropped in 2012

Global investments in clean energy dropped 11 percent in 2012, a dip blamed on regulatory uncertainty and policy changes in markets including the United States, India, Spain and Italy.

The analysis by research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that lower prices for solar and wind technology also lowered investment volumes, even as they allowed higher installation levels per dollar of funding.

Overall global investment in clean energy was $268.7 billion in 2012, down from $302.3 billion in 2011, according to the firm.

China topped the list with $67.7 billion in investments, up more than 20 percent, thanks mainly that country’s surging solar sector.

The United States was the second-ranked country for clean energy investments, at $44.2 billion. That was down by almost one-third from 2011, a drop researchers blamed on worries about the expiration of tax credits and competition from surging natural gas production.

Renewable energy tax credits were due to expire at the end of the year.  Congress included them in the tax-relief package approved Jan. 1, although people in the industry are still parsing the details of how the programs will affect investments.

Mark Liebriech, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said the research group warned at the beginning of 2012 that investments in clean energy were likely to drop below 2011 levels.

“But rumors of the death of clean energy investment have been greatly exaggerated,” he said in a statement. “The most striking aspect of these figures is that the decline was not bigger.”

Policy uncertainty, the European fiscal crisis and dropping technology costs all were among the “fierce headwinds” facing the sector, Liebriech said.

Solar remained the dominant sector in clean energy at $142.5 billion, down 9 percent from 2011. Investment in wind energy dropped 13 percent, to $78.3 billion.

Investment in biofuels, the second-largest sector in 2006, dropped 38 percent over 2011 levels, to 4.5 billion.