Monthly Archives: March 2011

Clean Energy M&A: Is the Glass Half-Empty or Half-Full?

Dana Blankenhorn Some reporters are calling the latest PwC Renewables Report a sign of a “renewables frenzy,” in that the number of merger deals in the space climbed to 530 last year, from just 319 in 2009. But is it? The total value of all deals in the space, according to the same report, actually fell sharply, to $33.4 billion from $48.8 billion. Major indexes like the Wilderhill New Energy Index and the PowerShares Global Clean Energy ETF (PBD) both fell in value last year, even while the average stock was rising in value. There are many reasons...

Ten Clean Energy Stocks for 2011: Buying Opportunities

Tom Konrad, CFA The geothermal and demand response stocks in my annual portfolio of ten clean energy stocks for 2011 have fallen significantly since the start of the year, making this an excellent time to buy. Every year since 2007 I've been publishing a list of ten renewable energy and energy efficiency stocks that I think will do well over the coming year.  For 2008-10, my list outperformed my clean energy benchmark.  This year so far looks like it is going to break my streak, but there is a very bright silver lining: I now think four...

Our Energy Bubble

Tom Konrad CFA Our energy policy looks like a bubble.   Bubbles are a social phenomenon at least as much as they are a financial phenomenon.  At the top of bubbles, participants ignore glaringly obvious risks.  In October 2007, Meredith Whitney pointed out the almost glaringly obvious fact that Citigroup was paying out more in dividends than it was earning in profits (i.e. it was being run like the US government, but without a friendly Federal Reserve to bail it out by printing money.)  She said that Citigroup would need either to raise capital,...

Four Green Money Managers’ Top Stock Picks

Green money managers' stock picks after the Japanese nuclear crisis. Even as the nuclear disaster in Japan unfolds, it's clear that the world's energy industry will be forever changed. Russian reactors were never considered safe, but a Japanese to have a nuclear meltdown is an entirely different story. Market Reaction Since Monday, nuclear stocks and ETFs have been plummeting. As of Wednesday night, The Market Vectors Uranium + Nuclear Energy ETF (NYSE:NLR), the iShares S&P Global Nuclear Energy Index (NASD:NUCL), PowerShares Global Nuclear Energy Portfolio ETF (NYSE:PKN), and the Global X Uranium ETF (NYSE:URA) are down...

An Elephant Hunter’s Thesis for Axion Power

John Petersen Last Friday I breathed a sigh of relief as my core position in Axion Power International (AXPW.OB) regained the price level it established in the first quarter of 2010. The last 12 months have been a stockholder's worst nightmare as supply and demand dynamics pushed Axion's stock price down into the $0.50 range and kept it there. Since it looks like new buyers have finally eaten their way through the excess supply, now seems like an opportune time to unwrap my crystal ball and lay out an elephant hunter's thesis for Axion's stock price outlook over...

Company Failures Are Not Industry Failures

Dana Blankenhorn Nearly all the big computer companies of the early 1970s have since gone out of business. Remember the BUNCH? Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data, Honeywell (HON)? The first two became Unisys, the last three are still around, but none is a real factor in the computer industry as it exists today. Betting on the BUNCH in 1971 would not leave you in the chips in 2011. Digital Equipment, Data General, Wang, Amdahl? All gone. Along with nearly every company that made PCs in the 1970s save one – Apple. International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) didn't get into the...

Clean Energy Stocks to Fill the Nuclear Gap

Tom Konrad, CFA If the Japanese use less nuclear power, what will take its place? I'm astounded by the resilience and discipline of the Japanese people in response to the three-pronged earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, perhaps in large part by my cultural roots in the egocentric United States, where we seem to have forgotten the virtue of self-sacrifice for the greater good.  Yet while Japanese society has shown itself to be particularly resilient, the Japanese electric grid is much less resilient.  According to International Energy Agency statistics, Japan produced 258 TWh of electricity from...

Greenshift Corp: Putting the Squeeze on Corn

Debra Fiakas After a series of bankruptcies laid the U.S. ethanol industry on its back a few years ago, the survivors got the message  -  become economically viable or go out of business.  The industry has been scrambling to adopt new processes that utilize other non-food materials or at least get more out of the corn that has been the mainstay feedstock for the U.S. ethanol industry.   Enter Greenshift Corporation (GERS:  OTC/BB) with its corn oil extraction process and a new step in the corn-ethanol production process.  Greenshift may change the economics of corn-ethanol production by...

Grid-based Energy Storage: Widely Misunderstood Challenges and Opportunities

John Petersen The most widely misunderstood subject in the field of energy storage is the potential for grid-based applications. They fire the imagination because the grid is so pervasive and the need is so great. They also present immense challenges to storage technology developers because the fundamental economic value per unit of grid-based energy storage is very low. While the subject of grid-based storage provides rich fodder for media reports and political posturing, the reality bears little relation to the perception. On March 9th, Lux Research published a sorely needed reality check in a new report titled "Grid...

Autodesk and the Future of Sustainable Design

Joel Makower If you start with the premise that many of the solutions to our global sustainability challenges require smart design and systems thinking, it doesn’t take long before you find your way to Autodesk (ADSK). The 29-year-old design software company has made a series of impressive moves into the sustainability realm over the past few years. It’s one of those largely unheralded companies creating the tools used by architects, designers, manufacturers, and most recently cleantech entrepreneurs to produce the next generation of greener, cleaner, more efficient products. Over the past year or so, I've had...

Peak Oil Risk in Muni Bonds

Tom Konrad CFA Bargain hunters looking for opportunities in muni bonds should be mindful of peak oil. Meredith Whitney predicts a wave of defaults in municipal (muni) bonds, followed by indiscriminate selling and potential buying opportunities for some.  She's been widely criticized for the prediction of defaults, but I'm a lot more interested in the prediction of the market's reaction.  With tax-free, AAA-rated munis currently yielding more than comparable taxable Treasury bonds, they seem at least a relative bargain already.  I would not call it outright panic, but I'd expect there are be some bargains...

The Brew Barons: Masters of advanced fermentation, driving the redefinition of biofuels: Pt ...

Jim Lane Will the new fermentation technologies completely shatter preconceptions about biofuels and bio-based products – and redefine the way in which Western Civ approaches the production of fuel, food, feed, and fiber? The new Brew Barons are working hard to make that so. See part 1 of  'Brew Barons', here. LanzaTech The LanzaTech process increases industrial energy efficiency by capturing waste gases (CO, CO2) and converting them to valuable fuels and chemicals. LanzaTech provides an opportunity to produce large volumes of low carbon fuel and chemicals at low costs using a countries own resources, reducing dependence on...

Epic Changes Are Coming in the Electric Power, Transportation and Energy Storage Sectors

John Petersen Epic is the only word I can use to describe an evolving tragedy that killed tens of thousands of people, inflicted hundreds of billions in property damage, destroyed 3.5% of Japan's base-load power generating capacity in a heartbeat and will cause recurring aftershocks in the global electric power, transportation and energy storage sectors for decades. While I'd love to believe the worst is behind us, I fear the times of trouble have just begun. Since it's clear that Japan will have to turn inward and serve the urgent needs of its own population first, the...

Renewable Energy Standards: Savvy or Silly?

David Gold State renewable energy standards have gained momentum over the past decade with 29 states having put in place various types of standard mandates and five more having implemented voluntary standards (34 total).  Now the federal government is looking to get into the game with a bi-partisan bill (S. 3813) aiming to set a minimum national standard. Renewable energy standards certainly feel good, but do they really provide the best path for achieving their goals?  The existing renewable energy standards are savvy in finding a way to reduce fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions while simultaneously being...

The Brew Barons: Masters of advanced fermentation, driving the redefinition of biofuels: Pt 1

Jim Lane Will the new fermentation technologies completely shatter preconceptions about biofuels and bio-based products – and redefine the way in which Western Civ approaches the production of fuel, food, feed, and fiber? The new Brew Barons are working hard to make it so. The Regents of the University of Washington generally only admit under conditions of duress – waterboarding is typically employed – that I graduated from their institution. At issue? What they felt was an inappropriate level of focus on beer and other fermentation products as a subject of personal discovery disguised as undergraduate research....

Energy Dominoes From Japan

Joe McCabe Energy amazes me; the ramifications from elementary school physics of converting potential energy into kinetic energy.  It's happening everywhere around us, and can have far reaching ramifications. An example is the potential energy in the form of pressure built up under Japan in plate tectonics before the recent earthquake, turned into land shaking, country moving, tsunami creating kinetic energy that reaches across the world. There are other forces, lets call it society energy, that can create financial shock waves in the energy industry including political, religious, and inaccurate supply curve assumptions. Energy Industry Domino...