New Transmission Technologies

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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 

  1. Aluminum-conductor, steel-supported (ACSS) with ultra-high strength cores.
  2. Aluminum-conductor, composite reinforced (ACCR)
  3. Superconducting Electricity Pipelines

ACSS is produced by the private company Southwire, while ACCR was developed by 3M, and Southwire is the contract manufacturer.  Superconducting Electricity Pipelines were developed by American Superconductor (AMSC), a company we recently profiled here.  

The Dog that Didn’t Bark

What surprised me was what was not in the REDI report: Composite Technology Corp’s (CPTC.OB) Aluminum Conductor Composite Core (ACCC) cable. I followed CPTC in 2007 and 2008.  According to most studies I saw, ACCC cable outperforms both ACSS and ACCR on a cost-adjusted basis.  Although I included the company in my Ten Green Energy Gambles for 2009 (one of my less successful picks, the stock was flat that year), I have not been following it closely since the financial crisis began, because I did not think that the company had the financial strength to do well in the new financial climate.  

But I didn’t stop following the company out of any doubts about its technology, so I was curious about the absence of ACCC cable from the REDI report.  Since I have several contacts at the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office (GEO), I asked around.  Unfortunately, no one was willing to talk on, or off, the record.  

What Can We Conclude?

Since I can’t share with you the substance of my conversations with my contacts at GEO, I can only speculate here what the absence from the REDI report might mean. (Note that these speculations are based on my thoughts previous to talking to my contacts at GEO, and are not based on those conversations in any way.)  Knowing that the technology wasn’t mentioned, we can only guss that 

  1. The drafters of the report were not aware of ACCC’s technical superiority to ACSS and ACCR, 
  2. ACCC isn’t really superior to ACSS and ACCR, or
  3. It was a bureaucratic oversight.

In any case, this is not good news for CPTC.  Perhaps a lack of funding or other circumstances has meant that Composite Technology has not been able to effectively communicate the advantages of ACCC to decision makers.  If that does not sound good, it could be worse: Perhaps ACCC really does not have the benefits I thought it did.  

The best-case scenario is #3, a bureaucratic oversight, but even then, why wasn’t Composite Technology there making sure such oversights didn’t happen?  Superior technology is only one small part of business success.  Another is making sure that people who might make decisions about your technology are aware of it.  The REDI report is intended for legislators 

Prospective investors in Composite Technology Corp. (CPTC.OB) should probably decide for themselves how important this is before investing, and current investors might consider re-evaluating their holdings.  It’s all speculation, but if you’re on the fence, this might tip you one way or the other.

If readers have any additional insight or guesses, let us know in the comments.


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