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VCs still pump dough into green tech, renewable energy

Q4 takes a bit of a haircut

fingers pointing at man

The economic meltdown has put a damper on a lot of things, but it seems to have been less of a wet blanket for investors in startups in the green technology and renewable energy in 2008 - if you exclude the final quarter of the unusually dismal year.

According to a report called The Venture Power Report put out by Greentech Media, which is trying to position itself as the IDG/IDC of this niche but growing market, investors pumped some $2.5bn into various green/energy startups in the fourth quarter of 2008, down 13.8 per cent from the $2.9bn level set in 2007's fourth quarter. While the fourth quarter was a bit weaker - not surprising given the scarcity of cash as the stock market imploded and credit dried up throughout the summer and into the fall - there were still 115 deals that got done, by Greentech's reckoning.

Solar technology continues to lead the pack, with 29 VC deals comprising $1.34bn in investments, followed by 18 deals worth a total of $358.6m for technologies relating to ethanol, biofuels, and gasification of coal. (Cellulosic ethanol and algae got some big bucks, apparently.) Venture capital investment in wind technologies accounted for $218m, including five deals, and another $208.5m was spread across 11 deals involving smart grids, energy efficiency, and related areas.

Startups working on batteries and other energy storage technologies secured $101.6m in venture funding in Q4, in a total of 14 deals. For all the noise about green IT and green automobiles and transportation, these two areas only accounted for $37.3m and $29m in investments, respectively.

While the fourth quarter saw a notable dip in VC funding for green tech and renewable energy, 2008 was a record year, with 350 deals totaling $7.7bn in aggregate VC investments. That's more than double the investment (in dollars, not deals) than in 2007. While series A and angel funding was not as high as in recent years (only 30 of the 115 deals this time around), early stage financing is still happening.

One last thing: VC deal counts are separated by the VC giving out the dough, and obviously in some cases, multiple VCs participate in a funding round for a green tech firm. So the number of companies receiving funds is lower than the deal count shown above. ®

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