Monthly Archives: February 2009

Viva the Cleantech Revolution

It’s official! Cleantech, the sixth industrial revolution, has arrived on time and in the midst of extraordinary crisis. Like every good revolution, blood is flowing in the streets; the guillotine is en route to Wall Street and the mob is so busy plotting retribution for the excesses of the past that most have no time to consider the future. But as yesterday’s dynasties decay, crumble and fall, a new generation of visionaries is already building on the wreckage of the past. These are indeed troubled times that bear an eerie resemblance to the opening sentence from A Tale of...

Portec Rail Products Beats Estimates, Gets Clobbered

Portec Rail Products (PRPX) released  fourth quarter results on Thursday, comfortably beating analyst expectations.  The stock promptly dropped 18% to just below $5, continuing a two-week decline from around $7.50. I'm baffled.  Although the rail freight industry is a victim of falling oil prices (which means they lose market share to trucking) and the overall drop-off of the transportation industry, this is not news. Portec has several things going for it.  The company has a strong balance sheet, with current assets exceeding total liabilities, and strong cash flow from operations.  Total revenue is down slightly from last...

The Ontario Green Energy Act: What Can Alt Energy Legislations Do For Investors

Dedicated legislations have been at the core of some of the most impressive regional growth stories in alternative energy, most notably in Germany with the Renewable Energy Sources Act or in California with the various legislative solar initiatives. On Monday, the Canadian province of Ontario became the latest jurisdiction to join the fray as lawmakers introduced the Green Energy and Green Economy Act. Why should investors care? Because such legislations have been at the core of some of the most impressive regional growth stories in alternative energy.  As a bit of a backgrounder on Ontario, there...

Renewable and Alternative Energy Mutual Funds Compared

If you can, you are better off in one of the clean energy ETFs, or even a portfolio of individual clean energy stocks (here are 10 clean energy picks for 2009.) However, it you want a mutual fund for the ease of investment, or you are looking to add one to a retirement plan, the Winslow Green Growth Fund comes out on top because of its emphasis on energy efficiency stocks (including these two Geothermal Heat Pump stocks), and its lower expenses.

Why Energy Storage Stocks Should be an Easy Double for Investors

For several months I’ve been writing about manufactured energy storage devices and the companies that develop and manufacture them. My basic theme has been that these devices are fundamental enabling technologies for cleantech, the sixth industrial revolution. I’ve repeatedly said that profound economic changes were rapidly evolving and that energy storage would be a major investment theme for decades to come, but even my unbridled optimism could not keep pace with the realities. While most investors have been focusing on obvious problems like bad mortgages, tight credit and recessions, immense changes in the energy sector have gone almost...

Two ETF Reshuffles

For readers who are tracking my 10 Clean Energy Stocks for 2009 portfolio, take note that I now think that SDS is a lousy hedge.  So in the model portfolio I'm personally tracking, I replaced each dollar of SDS with $3 of cash and $2 short SPY, an ETF which tracks the S&P 500.  Because I'm tracking the portfolio as a way to see how well a reader would perform, I did the replacement at the closing prices on Feb 11th, the day the article where I explained why not to use doubleshort ETFs (and short, ultras, or triples,...

Welcome To The New World

Perhaps ironically, it took one of the worst financial and economic crises of the past three decades to bring "the grid" into investor focus. To be sure, certain alt energy aficionados such as Tom have been on this topic for a long time (Tom is actually the one who introduced me to the grid as an investment theme). However, it is fair to say that most investors, including alt energy investors, have not historically paid the grid a huge deal of attention. That is because most people outside of alt energy and VC circles held, until recently, the Old...

Welcoming John L. Petersen To AltEnergyStocks.com

As most of you noticed, John L. Petersen recently joined AltEnergyStocks.com as a Contributing Editor. John brings a wealth of experience from years working as a corporate lawyer with growth-focused companies. His expertise in energy storage technologies has made him one of the best bloggers on this topic there is. We were thrilled to see how engaged you all got with his articles on long-range EVs and lithium-ion batteries, and we look forward to more top-quality material by John and insightful comments by you! For those who missed it, here is John's bio: John L. Petersen, Esq. is...

Life After Coal: It’s Sooner Than You Think

by Tom Konrad, Ph.D.   A couple years ago, I began to see reports that coal supplies might not last the 200+ years we've all been lead to believe, so I wrote an article about what you could do to prepare your portfolio for Peak Coal. Now two years have passed, and Peak Coal is undeniably 2 years closer.  (Did you ever wonder why people who have been saying that we have 200 years of coal for 20 years aren't now talking about 180 years of coal?)  But more than being 2 years closer, the evidence continues to mount.  Caltech...

Congress Approves Billions in Energy Storage Incentives

On Friday, the House of Representatives and Senate passed H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and sent the bill to President Obama for his signature. The impact on companies that manufacture advanced batteries and other energy storage devices will be staggering. The principal energy storage appropriations include: $2,000,000,000 for grants to manufacturers of advanced battery systems and vehicle batteries that are produced in the United States, including advanced lithium ion batteries, hybrid electrical systems, component manufacturers, and software designers;  $4,500,000,000 for grants for “Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability” including activities to modernize the electric...

DOE Reports That Lithium-ion Batteries Are Not Ready for Prime Time

by John Petersen Last month the DOE released its 2008 Annual Progress Report for the Energy Storage Research and Development Vehicle Technologies Program. This report is a frank and relatively upbeat assessment of the current status of Li-ion battery research and development that also provides a stark wake-up call for investors in energy storage stocks. The reality check has been done and the DOE’s verdict is clear: Lithium-ion batteries are not ready for prime time. In its description of ongoing research efforts to develop high-power batteries for HEVs, the DOE said: “High-power energy storage devices...

UltraPromises Fall Short

When I first came across ProShares' UltraShort ETFs, I thought they were a brilliant idea.  They seem to promise a multitude of advantages for investors: The ability to hedge market or sector exposure without having to go short.  (Going short requires a margin account, and US law prohibits the use of margin in most retirement accounts.) They should have a better risk profile than shorting.  With an UltraShort, you can't lose more than your initial investment.  With true shorting, the potential losses are unlimited.  As the underlying index rises, each percentage gain creates a smaller dollar fall, while...

Why I Sold My Utility Stocks

In times like these of financial uncertainty, regulated utilities have traditionally been considered a safe haven.  But that is changing.  The Dow Jones Utilities Average was down 30% in 2008, vs. a 34% drop in the Dow Industrials.  Not much of a safe haven. In a recent interview, utilities analyst Daniel Scotto noted, that the utility industry offers "a lot less security" than it used to.  His reasoning is based mainly on the fact that the regulated portion of utility company's business is smaller than it has been in previous recessions, making them vulnerable to lower growth (or even...

Energy Storage in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Here's some political context for my article on Energy Storage for the Smart Grid. For the moment, the Senate version of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 includes: "For an additional amount for `Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy', $14,398,000,000, for necessary expenses, to remain available until September 30, 2010: * * * Provided further, That $2,000,000,000 shall be available for grants for the manufacturing of advanced batteries and components and the Secretary shall provide facility funding awards under this section to manufacturers of advanced battery systems and vehicle batteries that are produced in the United States, including...

Alternative Energy Storage: Enabling the Smart Grid

America’s electric power grid is subject to immense inefficiencies that arise from the interplay between centralized power generation, local power consumption and on demand utility service. To put things into a broad perspective, the nameplate capacity of U.S. generating facilities is about 1 million Megawatts (MW), so if all of our power plants ran 24/7 we would have a theoretical annual generating capacity of 8.7 billion Megawatt-hours (MWh). Since demand for electricity fluctuates on both a daily and seasonal basis, total electric power generation in 2007 was only 4.2 billion MWh, or less than 50% of nameplate...

A Sign Of The Times

Alt energy investors figured out early on in this crisis that a widespread shut-down of credit markets coupled with a substantial re-pricing of risk would not bode well for the industry. That's why alt energy stocks have outdone the overall market to the downside over the past year, with the iShares S&P Global Clean Energy Index (ICLN) down more than 60% Vs. the S&P 500 loosing a little under 40% over the same period. Much of this carnage occurred before any real impacts on alt energy had been felt (current prices in equity markets are generally forward- rather...