President Carter asserted yesterday that the administration's stalled national energy legislation was "the only major failure" of his first year in office, and he predicted quick enactment of the energy plan shortly after Congress returns Jan. 19.

Portraying the first year of the Carter administration as a highly successful one for him and the Democratic Congress, the President told a nationally televised news conference:

"Almost all of the major proposals that we put forward to the Congress have been adopted or are still under active consideration."

Carter conceded, as White House officials had earlier, that the energy legislation, on which he staked so much and by which his aides said he should be judged, will not become law this year. But seeking to put the best possible light on this, he praised Congress for making "substantial progress even on energy," and said he believes a basis has been laid to bring the energy debate "to a rapid conclusion next year."

The President also promised to present Congress with "a much more carefully considered agenda for 1978, broadly encompasing the commitments htat I have made to the American people and the issues that I have identified since I have been in office as being importont."

Implicity ackowledging the most frequent criticism of his first year - that he sought to do too much too soon, misjudging the time and effort necessary to win approval of his initiatives - he predicted more effective actions by the administration next year "because we now know better when the Congress can move rapidly and when they can't."

The news conference was Carter's 20th since taking office, and the last he is scheduled to hold before leaving on a six-nation foreign trip Dec. 29. As has been the case in several of his recent news conferences, there was a listless quality about the session, in which no single topic was dominant.

With the President scheduled to meet Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin this morning at the White House, the only foreign policy questions dealt with the Middle East. Carter largely reiterated his position on a peace settlement and expressed his hope that the Cairo talks involving Israel, Egypt and the United States will lead to a comprehensive Middle East peace acord.

"I have no ideas what proposals, if any, Prime Minister Begin will bring to me tomorrow," he said.

The President resersved his harshest words for the Palestine Liberation Crangization, which he said had been "completely negative" on Middle East peace talks, removing itself "from any immediate prospect of participation in a peace discussion."

Carter opened his news conference with a lengthy statement on human rights, reitering his commitment "to make sure that a concern for human rights is woven through everything our government does, both at home and abroad."

"We have no wish to tell other nations what political or social systems they should have," he said. "But we want our own worldwide influence to reduce human suffering and not to increase it."

It was the first time in months that the President had used a news conference to spotlight the human rights issue, and there appeared to be no particular motivation for bringing it up yesterday otehr than, as Carter pointed out, "this is Human Rights Week."

Immediately after the news conference, in an informal chat with reporters, the President ducked questions about the Wilmington 10 case, which groups such as Amnesty International have cited as an alleged human rights violation in the United States. The case involves the conviction of civil rights workers and others in Wilmington, N.C., on testimony that has since been retracted by some of the prosecution witnesses.

Carter said he was not familiar with the details of the case and pointed out that it was handled by state courts.

"I am against unjust imprisonment," he said.

On other topics, the President:

Expressed his "deep sympathy" with farmers who are now protesting low farm prices and said that if he were still a farmer in Sumter County, Ga., "I would also participate at least in the demonstration of the plight of the farmers." But Carter said he would not take part in the current farm strike, and he predicted that few farmers would actually stop producing crops because it would impose such a hardship on their families.

Endorsed the final form of Social Security legislation on Capitol Hill, saying that although it involves a steep rise in taxes the American people "in return will know that it (the Social Security system) will be there permanently and in a sound condition."

Criticized congressional attempts to build a few more B-1 bombers, the supersonic aircraft he ordered scrapped last summer. To build the planes Congress seeks, he said, would be "an absolute total waste of about $500 million."

Said he would press the subject of human rights in countries such as Poland and Iran during his foreign trip.

Erroneously said that France is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In 1966, Frnce withdrew from the military structure of NATO, but has continued as a member of the alliance and a participant in nonmilitary NATO affairs.

Carter gave no details on the "much more carefully considered agenda" that he will present to Congress next year. However, he told a meeting of the Business Council Wednesday night that his top priority in 1978 will be to deal with the economy, including proposals for tax reductions and tax law revisions.