Today in Cleantech

Startups may have raked in cleantech venture capital in the first quarter, but big renewable energy projects struggled to raise cash. Global clean energy investment fell to $31.1 billion in the first three months of this year, its lowest quarterly total in two years, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported Friday. That’s down more than a third from a record $47.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010. While part of the big drop was due to a “hangover” from the record-high investments made in the last three months of 2010, it’s also based on some serious headwinds facing the industry. Solar power, for one, is being squeezed by an anticipated slowdown in feed-in tariffs and other government subsidies in big European markets such as Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic, and U.S. wind power projects have been hit hard by falling prices for natural gas, which hit lows not seen since 2002, the report stated. What were the bright spots? The report identified Brazilian and Chinese wind power projects, with China spending $10 billion, or 25 percent more than the first quarter of 2010, and Brazil doubling its wind investment to $2.1 billion compared to the same quarter last year. China remains the leader in clean energy investment, with a 39 percent increase in to hit a record $54.4 billion last year. That was enough to give China the lead over the U.S. in installed renewable energy capacity, as well as retain its spot as the top manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels.

Today in Cleantech

The United States’s energy policy paralysis has taken a toll on the country’s competitiveness in the race for green energy investment, according to a report out this morning from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Last year saw the U.S. drop from second to third in total clean energy investment with a total of $34 billion, according to the report. That’s less than the $54.4 billion invested by top-ranking China, and it’s also less than Germany’s investment of $41.2 billion last year, Corresponding figures from 2009 put China in first with $39.1 billion, the U.S. in second with $22.5 billion and Germany in third with $20.6 billion. Pew’s report blames the breakdown of clean energy policy in the U.S. Congress for the slip in rankings, although the country — and the world at large — still saw an overall increase in green energy investment from 2009 to 2010. The U.S. did remain on the top of the list for venture capital and private equity investment into green energy in 2010, however, with about $6 billion of the global total of $8.1 billion, according to the report. The U.S. also led the world in energy efficiency spending at $3.3 billion.

Today in Cloud

Andreessen Horowitz announced today that Peter Levine is to join the firm as a venture partner. With executive experience at companies such as Veritas and XenSource, Levine brings enterprise IT knowledge to the well-known venture firm, allowing them to build upon earlier investments in enterprise-friendly cloud companies such as box.net. According to ZDNet, Levine will “help Andreessen Horowitz evaluate new deals in infrastructure, cloud computing, networking, virtualization, and storage,” which should keep him busy for a while. Andreessen Horowitz has made a number of interesting investments recently; it will be intriguing to see the direction in which Levine tries to take them.

Today in Cloud

UK virtualization provider AppSense today announced a $70 Million investment from investment bank Goldman Sachs. This is the company’s first external investment in twelve years, and gives them the resources to expand rapidly in a market they expect to be worth $2 Bn “over the next couple of years.” The company differentiates itself by addressing user virtualization rather than the more common virtualization of machines undertaken by VMware and others. The company — and their new backer — clearly believe there’s increasing demand for effective management of a user’s desktop settings across both physical and virtual devices… but can they defend their market position against the makers of those virtual machines upon which they currently rely?

Today in Cleantech

Hope springs eternal with every earnings call. That’s this morning’s news from the European green industry watchers at Reuters, who see some hints of positive earnings reports coming out in in the next couple of days from such greentech bellwethers as Norwegian solar group Renewable Energy Corp., Danish wind turbine maker Vestas and France’s EDF Energies Nouvelles. REC, which does silicon solar from raw materials to cells and modules, has predicted it will beat analysts predictions for fourth-quarter earnings, with a growing U.S. solar market making up for a drop-off in Germany. Vestas, for its part, is predicting fourth-quarter revenues to remain steady, despite an oversupply situation in the wind industry that’s seen turbine prices fall to five-year lows. As for EDF Energies Nouvelles, the green power wing of France’s dominant utility is expected to get a big boost from the French government’s $13.6 billion offshore wind plans.

Why Greentech Money is Sliding from Supply Side to Demand Side

Last year’s green technology VC funding, IPO and publicly traded index figures are beginning to pour in, and they reveal a dramatic shift from the supply side of the clean energy equation to the demand side. Here are the numbers to prove what everyone’s been saying about the changing greentech investment landscape.

Did We Really Learn Anything From the Dotcom Crash?

Ten years ago, the dotcom crash changed the Internet business forever. There’s more emphasis today on making sure that the fundamentals of an Internet business are stronger. Most startups are obsessed with monetization, even if they don’t like to admit it. While nobody would argue that basing a business on fiscal reality is a bad thing, this newfound conservative approach has also had negative effects.

The Post-Stimulus State of Cleantech VC

Nnow that U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) stimulus funding has practically dried up, venture capitalists can’t count on more government-induced tailwinds to propel their cleantech ambitions. So, how are they coping? I’d say pretty well, if you factor in an encouraging string of early 2010 deals that culminated in this week’s massive $350 million round of financing snagged by EV infrastructure firm Better Place.

Today in Cloud

Out of coffee and desperately needing some caffeine, I hopped in my car this morning and headed to Starbucks, only to hear on the way an NPR story about an SEC-proposed ban on flash trading. As I have written before, I still am not convinced this practice should be lambasted as an unfair practice in an industry that isn’t exactly known for being puritanical. According to this post from HPCwire’s Michael Feldman, regulators concerned with market stability — and morality — might want to focus their attention on various investment models instead of split-second-early access to to data.