Monthly Archives: July 2009

Why Lead-Carbon Batteries Will Deflate the Lithium-Ion Bubble

John Petersen For over a year I've been cautioning readers that while lithium-ion batteries are glamorous, sleek, sexy and hot; they are about to face a formidable challenge from lead-carbon batteries that are a little bulkier and heavier, but offer competitive cycle-life and power for a tiny fraction of the cost. To placate lithium fundamentalists and EV evangelists, I want to clearly state up front that lead-carbon batteries will probably not be the first choice for plug-in vehicles. Nevertheless, it is crystal clear that lead-carbon batteries will be the only sensible choice...

Biochar Investing

Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA BioChar, or using black carbon directly as a soil amendment holds the promise of both increasing agricultural yields and locking up carbon in the soil for centuries or millennia.  Are there ways for stock market investors to benefit? The technology is simple, but the results are potentially quite profound.  By pyrolyizing (heating in the absence of oxygen) biomass, and mixing the resulting char into the soil, it is possible to produce  Energy, in the form of heat, electricity, and or liquid fuel Carbon sequestration More productive agricultural land. Key to producing both energy...

India Joins The Solar PV Club

Charles Morand One of the - if not THE - most popular debates in solar PV circles is about when exactly the electricity produced by solar PV systems will reach "grid-parity", or become competitive with like-generation fuels (i.e. non-baseload) on a stand-alone basis (i.e. no feed-in tariffs, mandates or rebates). A lot of the time, these discussions slip into arcane sub-debates about module costs, as expressed on a dollar per watt basis, and how far they need to fall for solar PV to be competitive. But module costs are only one part...

Clean Energy Stocks Shopping List: Smart Grid and Strong Grid

My five favorite stocks with technology to improve grid reliability. Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA Although the market has risen above where it was in early June, when I said "We're near the top," I'm still bearish.  And I'm still making lists of stocks to buy when prices seem more favorable.  Previous articles in this Clean Energy Stocks Shopping List series are listed at the end of this one. The Strong Grid I recently wrote about our list of Smart Grid Stocks, and at least two readers were prompted to ask why wasn't (1) Beacon Power (BCON) on the...

Raser Technologies (RZ): A Bargain, or Just Cheap?

Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA Raser Technologies (NYSE:RZ) stock has fallen almost 50% since the company announce an offering of shares on June 30.  Although the round quickly filled, the stock continued falling, and it seems like a screaming deal.  Is it? On July 7, Raser Technologies sold $25.5M of stock and warrants in a secondary offering.  According to press reports, this amounted to 13% of Raser's stock, thereby valuing the company at (very approximately) $200M, or $175M pre-money.   The units, each consisting of 1 share and 1/2 a warrant exercisable at $4.62 was offered at $2.98. ...

Carbon ETFs/ETNs: Playing Copenhagen

Charles Morand At $126 billion transacted in 2008, up from $11 billion in 2005, the global carbon market is the fastest growing commodities market in the world and, provided that an agreement is reached at the COP15 conference in Copenhagen and that the US adopts a cap-and-trade program, this growth could go on for several more years. Yet this is a market that remains comparatively unknown for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the rules surrounding it are very complex. Unlike other commodities, to successfully invest directly in...

Grid-Based Energy Storage; Notes, Questions and Heresies from Storage Week

John Petersen Last week I had the pleasure of participating as a panelist in Infocast’s Storage Week and attending four days of presentations by industry executives, national thought leaders and policymakers. While most of the presentations were too detailed and specific for a blog about energy storage stocks, there were a few high-level discussions that may be interesting to readers and while I'll never qualify as a journalist I can at least share some of the thoughts I jotted down. Storage for Integration of Renewables Two of the most important presentations came from Dr....

Clean Energy Stocks Shopping List: Solar Stocks

The market correction I've been expecting seems to have begun.  If it continues, I will start buying again.  Here are five solar (and solar balance of system) stocks I'd buy at the right price. Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA This article continues my Clean Energy Stocks Shopping List series.  So far I've brought you: Five clean transport stocks, I looked at why it makes sense to wait for better prices, Five Energy Efficiency stocks (always my favorite sector), and Five Electric Transmission Stocks. Two Landfill Gas and Three Geothermal Stocks Long-time readers will know that I don't...

Energy Storage on the Smart Grid Will Be 99.45% Cheap and 0.55% Cool

7.17.09 Storage Week John Petersen Infocast’s Storage Week was all I had hoped it would be, and more. While I thoroughly enjoyed serving on three discussion panels and was warmly received by roughly 250 attendees, including executives of companies that I've occasionally criticized, the most important value for me came from the opportunity to hear four days of high-level presentations by industry executives, national thought leaders and policymakers who repeatedly stressed that: From a utility perspective grid-based energy storage is the functional equivalent of an instantly...

Our Smart Grid Stock List

Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA I've been writing about the smart grid and its potential since before I joined AltEnergyStocks, in 2007, although at the time, I wasn't using the term: I mostly called it "Smart Metering."  Now, Smart Grid is a central part of federal stimulus plans, and the term is firmly ensconced in the popular lexicon.  GE even created a Super Bowl ad around the Smart Grid (video). It was far past time to create a Smart Grid category in our Alternative Energy Stock List, but now we've done it.  The companies in the Smart Grid Stock List...

Q2 Performance Update: Ten Green Energy Gambles for 2009

Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA I never thought 2009 would be a good year for risky stocks, but my readers asked for them anyway.  So far, my risk taking readers have not been burnt too badly, and the portfolio as a whole continues to track its benchmarks. In my first quarter update for my green energy gambles for 2009, I noted that the portfolio had lost about 10%, between the benchmark returns (-12% and -5%), but not very impressive.  Since then, the portfolio as a whole has gained a little ground, and is almost exactly midway between the benchmarks. The...

De-Carbonizing Electricity – Will King Coal Finally Be Dethroned?

Charles Morand Last Friday, the WSJ's Environmental Capital blog noted how, according to HSBC, growing government efforts to de-carbonize the electricity supply across the developed world would hurt makers of power generation technology with high exposure to coal. Yesterday, the EIA released its Electric Power Monthly report for April 2009. In it, the agency notes the following: The drop in coal-fired generation was the largest absolute fuel-specific decline from April 2008 to April 2009 as it fell by 20,551 thousand megawatthours, or 13.9 percent  The April decline was the third consecutive month of historically large drops...

Green Jobs: Debunking the Debunkers

Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA Energy markets are neither free nor efficient, so traditional economic arguments against regulation and other government interventions do not apply.  In response to my recent article digging into green jobs, a reader sent me a copy of a March paper by Andrew Morriss et al at University of Illinois that attempts to debunk green jobs myths.  While I see major flaws in most green jobs papers I read, many of the myths cited by this paper are irrelevant to what I consider the most important questions: Can government intervention to clean up the energy...

$3 Billion For Cleantech & Alt Energy

Charles Morand The DOE made public earlier today the amount of money that will awarded to clean power projects in lieu of the usual tax breaks: $3 billion. This will allow project proponents to receive a direct cash grant now instead of a Production Tax Credit or an Investment Tax Credit later on. The guidance document notes the following: "Section 1603 of the Act’s tax title, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act, appropriates funds for payments to persons who place in service specified energy property during 2009 or 2010 or after 2010 if construction began...

Large Hydro Power: The Underloved Energy Source

Charles Morand While browsing Cleantech News, I came across an interesting post on Energy Outlook on the lack of attention hydro power is receiving in the latest of round of policy efforts aimed at greening the U.S.' energy supply and combating climate change. Besides having been been scuffed at in Waxman-Markey, hydro power has effectively been ignored in the ARRA, receiving a measly $32 million, peanuts in comparison to the $786.5 million awarded to biofuels, the $350 million for geothermal power and the $117.6 million going to solar. Not mention the millions of dollars that will flow...

Q2 Performance Update: 10 Clean Energy Stocks for 2009

The Obama Effect continues to make my annual ten picks shine. Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA This is the second performance update on my 10 Clean Energy Stocks for 2009.  In the first quarter, the model portfolio was up a tiny 1.6%, but still managed to beat the benchmarks handily (by 8% and 9%), since they were both down significantly. In the last three months, the market has turned around, logging significant gains, but my ten picks have continued to outperform. Company  Ticker Change 12/27/08 to 7/2/09 Dividend & Interest The...