Monthly Archives: November 2010

Time To Buy Solar Stocks?

Tom Konrad CFA Renewable Energy stocks have been suffering for over a year. but the sector's poster-child has also been the whipping boy.  While the S&P 500 has risen 8% percent in 2010, the broader alternative energy sector is down 10% and solar has fared even worse.  Solar is down 27% for the year, with a 17% drop in the last 2 weeks (see chart.) Ian Tharp - CIBC World Markets These numbers were brought home to me by a presentation by Ian S. Tharp, CFA, an Executive Director and Cleantech and Renewable Energy...

Can America Regain the Rare Earths Crown?

by Kidela Capital Group A rare earth element is like air. It only seems to become important when you are running out. With China suddenly cutting back on exports while controlling 95 percent of the world’s production of rare earth elements, the United States and other countries suddenly finds themselves vulnerable. This vulnerability has to do with the stability of the supply of these strategic commodities. Countries from around the world have suddenly woken up to the realization that the future of their high technology industries could be in the hands of one supplier – China. In the...

Axion Power and BMW Report Impressive Performance Test Results

John Petersen After seven years of cautious disclosures about the development status, performance and market potential of its serially patented PbC® battery technology, Axion Power International (AXPW.OB), in conjunction with BMW (BAMXY.PK), has finally released impressive performance test results that show why the PbC battery is a superior choice for automotive stop-start applications. Concurrently, Axion released a white paper that discusses stop-start battery requirements in detail and offers some hints about the PbC battery's potential for use in other emerging energy storage markets. The presentation and the white paper do not show small, incremental gains like you...

In Clean Energy, Active Management Pays

Alternative Energy and Climate Change Mutual Funds, Part V Tom Konrad, CFA Actively managed clean energy funds have been producing better returns than index funds, despite much higher expenses. I've long been critical of the costs of Alternative Energy mutual funds, but I now regret that stance.  Past Performance of Mutual Funds When I recently surveyed the performance of Alternative Energy mutual funds, I found the results were pretty good, at least in comparison to the oldest sector index fund, the Powershares Clean Energy Index (PBW).  See the following chart below, which shows...

Alternative Energy and Climate Change Mutual Funds, Part IV

Tom Konrad CFA Cherry picking the holdings of green energy mutual funds. So far in this series I've concentrated on trying to pick the best of the Alternative Energy and Climate Change Mutual Funds.  This is a difficult task, because while I found in Part III that most of the funds' performance has been better than comparable index ETFs, these mutual funds' costs are quite high, even by the standards of most mutual funds, as I discussed in Part I.  In part II, I tried looking at the sector breakdown of the funds' holdings, to see if...

Introducing EV Insights: In-Depth Analysis of Challenges and Opportunities in Vehicle Electrification

John Petersen After months of planning, I'm pleased to announce the launch of EV Insights, an Internet site dedicated to in-depth analysis of the challenges and opportunities in vehicle electrification and other cleantech sectors. My partners in this project are Jack Lifton, a highly regarded expert in the fields of rare earth metals, mining and extractive industries, and Dr. Gareth Hatch, a thought leader in the field of permanent magnet materials, components and their end uses in motors and power generation systems. In coming months we will offer a series of wide-ranging and probing interviews, conversations and...

Alternative Energy and Climate Change Mutual Funds, Part III

Tom Konrad CFA Past performance of green energy mutual funds. In part I of this series, I looked at the full costs of alternative energy and climate change mutual funds.  I concluded that they were quite expensive, ranging from over 2% per year, to almost 6%.  In a stock market that has historically produced returns of about 10.5% per year, but has been flat for the last decade, even 2.5% in expenses per year would have resuted in a substantial loss of value.  In order to make up for the drag on returns, these mutual funds will...

Vehicle Electrification And The “Too Good To Be True Rule”

John Petersen One of the first lessons investment professionals learn is that if an investment proposal sounds too good to be true, the proposal is probably materially false and misleading. On November 15th, the Electrification Coalition released its Fleet Electrification Roadmap and once again proved the wisdom of the "Too Good To Be True Rule." I know that lobbyists are supposed to take a policy position and make the best case they can; but when their case is based on deliberate distortions, somebody has to point out the differences between current realities and bafflegab. In building the...

High Conviction Paired Trade – Short Tesla Motors And Buy Exide Technologies

John Petersen Short sellers are the bane of every securities lawyer who represents small public companies. In over thirty years of practice I've never advocated a short sale because I hate the idea of profiting from someone else's misery. Based on recent quarterly reports filed by my short-list of pure play energy storage companies, which includes Tesla Motors (TSLA) as an honorary member, I'm compelled to break with tradition and suggest a paired trade that involves a short sale of Tesla coupled with a long purchase of Exide Technologies (XIDE). The following table summarizes the year-to-date and...

Understanding Stop-Start Idle Elimination And Emerging Energy Storage Solutions

John Petersen Last week Lux Research published a report titled "Micro-hybrids: On the Road to Hybrid Vehicle Dominance" that forecasts micro-hybrid vehicle sales of three million units this year increasing to 34 million units annually by mid-decade. Lux sent me a courtesy copy of their report and will host a webinar to discuss their findings on November 16th. While I'm very excited about Lux's conclusions respecting micro-hybrid implementation rates, it's critical for investors to understand that batteries for micro-hybrids will merely be upgrades of batteries that would have been sold in any event. Therefore, the benefit...

Three Top Geothermal E&P Companies

Tom Konrad CFA Last week, I was on a panel at the Inside Commodities Conference, and spent some time talking with Tyler Mordy, director of research at Hahn Investment.  He's a top-down analyst (and CFA Charter holder) who had recently grown enthusiastic about Alternative Energy in general because the sector is so beaten down.  We agreed that the most-beaten down sector of alternative is geothermal power stocks, which Tyler finds frustrating because Hahn works with managed ETF portfolios, and there simply is no geothermal ETF.  Nor is there likely to be, since one publicly traded company...

Valuation Primer For Energy Storage Companies – Lesson #2

John Petersen On November 6th I published Lesson #1 in this series, which provided a quick side-by-side comparison of Ener1 (HEV) and Exide Technologies (XIDE). Yesterday two more companies that I track, A123 Systems (AONE) and Enersys (ENS), reported results for the September quarter. The quick summary is that Enersys handily beat street estimates while the bleeding at A123 continued unabated. To follow up with the format I introduced last week, the first graph is a simple market performance comparison of the two companies over the last year. The second graph comes from my...

Hydrogenics Corp: Splitting Water

by Debra Fiakas, CFA Most investors, if they have heard of Hydrogenics Corporation (HYGS: Nasdaq) at all, consider them a fuel cell producer. However, about two-thirds of the company’s revenue comes from the design and manufacture of hydrogen generation products based on water electrolysis technology - a somewhat unique, but valuable electrochemical technology that could make important contributions to the world’s future energy base. Electrolysis or the splitting of water molecules using an electric current produces hydrogen and oxygen - two elements that have market potential in a variety of industrial and power markets. It stands in...

Alternative Energy and Climate Change Mutual Funds, Part II

Tom Konrad CFA Choosing the best green energy mutual fund. In part I of this series, I looked at the costs and expenses of eight Climate Change and Alternative Energy focused Mutual Funds.  I concluded that four out of the eight, the Firsthand Alternative Energy Fund (ALTEX), the Guinness Atkinson Alternative Energy Fund (GAAEX), the Winslow Green Growth Fund (WGGFX), and the New Alternatives Fund (NALFX) each cost roughly 1.5% more in terms of expenses and trading costs per year than the typical Climate Change or Alternative Energy focused Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), with the other four...

Valuation Primer For Energy Storage Companies – Lesson #1

John Petersen I frequently observe that market valuations in the energy storage sector have been wildly distorted by electric vehicle hype that has nothing to do with business fundamentals. Last February I wrote an article that compared Exide Technologies with Ener1, but obviously didn't quite get to the meat of the matter. Since both companies reported earnings on November 4th, this seems like an opportune time to be more direct in the comparison and present a brief primer on valuations in the energy storage sector. Since a lot of investors never get beyond stock price movements, the...

Energy Storage – Opportunities and Intellectual Short Circuits

John Petersen After writing about investment opportunities in the energy storage sector for a couple of years, today marks an important transition because I've accepted Nadsaq's invitation to include my blog in the Community section of their website. I'm grateful for the chance to reach a broader audience and hope that my weekly musings can help new readers separate hype from opportunity and avoid the intellectual short-circuits that are all too common in the energy storage sector. By way of introduction, I'm a working lawyer and accountant who has spent 30 years guiding emerging energy and technology...