While much of the news coming out of the renewable energy sector was surprisingly positive given the number of stumbling blocks the industry encountered last year, private sector funding did not match that trend. A new report from consulting agency Ernst & Young found that venture funding for "cleantech" companies actually declined in 2011.
Cleantech is not strictly clean energy, but also includes energy storage and efficiency technologies, as well as those that deal with issues of water and pollution, but renewable energy is the largest portion.
After a disappointing fourth quarter, the cleantech sector took in $4.9 billion in venture capital funding through 2011, a 4.5 percent decline from 2010's more than $5.1 billion.
Despite seeing a slightly larger 5 percent decline in annual investment, electricity generation still accounted for the greatest part of the sector's funding with $1.5 billion. Solar power saw the greatest interest in energy generation, with $284.5 million, while solar and wind power drew interest at the corporate level.
Jay Spencer, director of Ernst & Young LLP's Americas Cleantech, told Bloomberg that the company still expects to see comparable investment this year, driven by growing demand.