Monthly Archives: January 2010

2010: The Year of the Strong Grid?

Part I: With Smart Grid Brains and Transmission Brawn... Tom Konrad, CFA A robust national grid will be essential to achieving high penetration for renewable electricity at reasonable cost, and the companies that can help build it are an essential part of a clean energy portfolio.   Many renewable energy advocates, especially those enchanted by the gigantic potential for solar, think that we can get by with local renewable energy.  While it's a pretty vision, the timing of wind and solar (the only forms of renewable energy that have the potential to produce 100% of our electricity) mean that this...

Why Petersen is Such a Buzzkill

John Petersen In one of my first articles, "Battery Technology: A Different Set of Rules," a commenter suggested that I was a bit of a Captain Buzzkill. Eighteen months later it's clear that a lot of readers share that uncharitable view. This morning I had an e-mail exchange with a reader that raised the same basic issues and reminded me that it's been a while since I've discussed the fundamental differences between energy storage and other technology related sectors. Since the subject matter can be very important to investors who want to make sound decisions, I've decided to...

Plug-in Vehicles Are A Luxury No Nation Can Afford

John Petersen I'm going to apologize up front for revisiting a topic that inevitably draws furious comment from readers who just don't get it, or who refuse to get it. I understand that it's painful to learn that politicians, environmental advocates and the mainstream media have been lying about critical issues, but that doesn't make exposing the lies less important. So I'm going to endure the slings and arrows of the eco-religious one more time and use a new example to show that plug-in vehicles are a luxury no nation can afford. Ener1 (HEV) is a pure-play...

Playing the ‘Global Grid Game’ – Japan’s NGK, GE Majority-Owned Indo Tech Look Strong

Maintaining and expanding the world's electric power grids in order to avoid stupendous blackouts, add gigawatts of green power, and bring electricity to a billion additional people, will cost hundreds of billions of dollars over the next 10 years. Retrofitting just the U.S. power grid will cost $130 billion, estimates the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). China has earmarked $135 billion to upgrade and expand its high-voltage grid. India will need to spend billions if it has any hope of reaching its goal of increasing electrical generation capacity to 200 GW by 2012 from roughly 150 GW currently. Among...

New Transmission Technologies

Tom Konrad, CFA Why wasn't Aluminum Conductor Composite Core (ACCC) technology mentioned in Colorado's REDI report? In December, I gave readers a brief summary and a few investing ideas based on Colorado's Renewable Energy Development Infrastructure (REDI) report.  I've now read the entire report, much of which is focused on Colorado's needs in terms of electric infrastructure.  In addition to some useful price data for long distance transmission, there was a short section on "the potential for new transmission technologies" (page 35.)   The new technologies mentioned were  Aluminum-conductor, steel-supported (ACSS) with ultra-high strength cores. Aluminum-conductor, composite reinforced (ACCR)...

Vehicle Electrification – Press Releases, Production Decisions and The Hype Cycle

John Petersen Writing an investment blog on hype-riddled sectors like vehicle electrification and energy storage is tough because the topic is emotionally charged and expectations are often based on political promises, issue advocacy, press releases and mainstream media stories that never tell the complete truth. As a result I spend a huge amount of time debunking popular mythology that's 180 degrees out of sync with business realities and responding to commenters who refuse to believe cars with plugs will be: Five to six times less efficient than HEVs when it comes to reducing national gasoline consumption; Nine...

The Holdings of the Powershares Global Progressive Transport Portfolio ETF (PTRP)

Tom Konrad, CFA I included the Powershares Global Progressive Transport Portfolio (PTRP) as an investment option instead of three stocks in my Ten Clean Energy Stocks for 2010, as part of a simplified portfolio for small investors wanting to minimize costs by making fewer trades.  The other Exchange Traded Fund I used in this way was the First Trust Nasdaq Clean Edge Smart Grid Infrastructure Index Fund (GRID).  I took a look at the holdings of the Smart Grid ETF here, and they are not exactly what you would expect from the name.  Since it makes sense to know...

Lithium-ion Batteries Are Too Valuable To Waste On Plug-in Vehicles

John Petersen In November 2006, a slick issue-oriented documentary asked the provocative question "Who Killed the Electric Car" and argued that General Motors' EV1 project was terminated because of collusion between the auto and oil industries. The truth is nobody killed the electric car. It died in infancy from congenital birth defects and the same flaws that killed the EV1 will probably kill Tesla Motors, Fisker Automotive, Nissan's (NSANY) Leaf and GM's Volt. This is not a question of cost, performance, abuse tolerance or cycle-life. It's a fundamental flaw in the economics of using batteries to replace a...

This ‘Green’ Sector May Grow 573% to $37.7 Billion by 2020 – And the...

Bill Paul Nobody knows the alternative energy landscape better than Clint Wheelock, whose firm, Pike Research, generates in-depth research on everything from smart meters to carbon capture and sequestration. Now here’s a forecast deserving of far wider attention than it has so far received: by 2020 total revenue generated by energy services companies (ESCOs) could hit $37.7 billion, up a monstrous 573% over 2009’s $5.6 billion. At a minimum, Wheelock expects ESCOs’ revenue to hit $19.9 billion by 2020, a 255% increase. In an exclusive interview last week, Wheelock explained that as much as demand...

Is Cree, Inc. (CREE) Likely to Burn Out?

Tom Konrad, CFA Pioneering light-emitting diode (LED) maker Cree, Inc. looks overvalued. Light-Emitting Diodes, or LEDs, can be made to shine more brightly by increasing the power to them.  This has the unfortunate effect of overheating the leads and shortening the lifespan of the LED.  A similar effect may soon hit the stock of LED maker, Cree, Inc. (CREE.) Since I began the tradition, Cree has been a mainstay of my annual portfolio of ten stocks for the next year, published each January (See the 2008 and 2009 lists.  The Cree-free 2010 list is here.)  LEDs have been among...

Will 2010 Be the Year of Cleantech Revenues, IPOs and, Maybe, Even Profits?

David Gold As a “gearhead” (engineer) I must admit I truly enjoy looking at all the cool technologies being developed by cleantech companies.  The promise of cleantech hinges, in part, on these innovations.  So it is not surprising that so much focus in the blogosphere and the press is given to the funding and development of these new technologies.  Much like the dot-com buzz in the mid-90s, today we celebrate the amazing innovations that are taking seed. But for cleantech to avoid the fate of synfuels of the ‘70s or that of many of the early...

New Authentication for Comments

Due to an ever-increasing flood of comment spam, AltEnergyStocks.com has changed how the comments work.  If you would like to comment in the future, you will need to register with an email address, or OpenID.  Most likely you are familiar with this procedure from other blogs.  After you've first registered, you will be able to sign in and comment. One other change is that comments will now appear immediately, and you will no longer have to wait for us to manually approve your comments.  Feel free to test this procedure in the comments on this entry.  If you...

Plug-in Vehicles; Waist Deep In The Big Muddy

John Petersen Generation specific cultural references can be treacherous ground for bloggers because the flashback effect is usually limited to readers with long and vivid memories. In this case, however, the lessons of history are so relevant that I'll accept the risk and offer some context for younger readers. In my youth a war wrapped in the liberal ideology of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and fueled by an underlying concern over who would control oil and gas resources in the Gulf of Tonkin was fought in the jungles of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. By current standards,...

Ten Green Energy Gambles for 2010

Tom Konrad, CFA If you like to take risks, want to fight climate change and prepare for the impact of peak oil, and would also like a chance to make a big return on your investments, here are ten investments you can make that might do all of those things.  Note (4/28/2010): A performance update for these picks is available here A small part of my portfolio is usually in small, risky green companies with the promise of big returns.  This year, however, I'm too bearish to own many small, risky companies, but I'm still making some long-shot bets...

If I Could Own Only One Alternative Energy Stock, It Would Be . ....

Bill Paul My friend Consuelo Mack, host of "Consuelo Mack's Wealthtrack" on PBS TV, asks her guests for their "one investment pick." What's my one alternative energy stock pick? A year ago on Consuelo's show, I recommended LED lighting developer Cree Inc. (Symbol CREE), because the LED lighting market (part of the burgeoning energy efficiency sector) is expected to hit upwards of $5 billion by 2013 v. $600 million in 2008, according to investment banking firm Merriman, Curhan, Ford, and because Cree was then an attractive takeover candidate. It still is; however, since the stock has since risen something...

The Year of the Balance Sheet

Year in Review: Ten Green Energy Gambles for 2009 Tom Konrad, CFA My speculative renewable and alternative energy stock picks for 2009 had mixed results. The gambles came nowhere near the performance of my 10 Clean Energy Stocks for 2009, and only kept pace with their benchmarks.  The reasons why can be found on the companies' balance sheets and cash flow statements. In January 2009 in response to popular demand, I gave readers ten picks of speculative green energy stocks.  I tend to buck the general trend that renewable energy investors tend to be gamblers, but my annual stock...