Monthly Archives: July 2011

Aggressive New CAFE Standards; The IC Empire Strikes Back

John Petersen Last Friday President Obama and executives from thirteen leading automakers gathered in Washington DC to announce an historic agreement to increase fleet-wide fuel economy standards for new cars and light trucks from 27.5 mpg for the 2011 model year to 54.5 mpg for the 2025 model year. While politicians frequently spin superlatives to describe mediocre results, I believe the President's claim that the accord "represents the single most important step we've ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil" is a refreshing example of political understatement. After three decades of demagoguery, debate,...

Are the Declines in Solar and Wind Stocks Structural, or Cyclical?

Tom Konrad, CFA Last week, I asked three green money managers if they thought cleantech stocks, especially solar and wind sectors were near a bottom.  While they did tell me about eight cleantech value stocks, they were not ready to call the bottom. Commoditization in Clean Energy In response to my questions, Rafael Coven, the manager of the Cleantech Index (^CTIUS), which is the index behind the Powershares Cleantech Portfolio ETF (PZD,) ...

Comverge, Diverge, or Merge?

Tom Konrad CFA Comverge (COMV) has a great residential demand response business.  The company lacks focus, but the stock has significant upside as an acquisition target. As part of my ongoing series on energy management companies (see these articles on World Energy Solutions (XWES) and EnerNOC (ENOC)) I spoke with Comverge CEO Blake Young. The Comverge Advantage Comverge is the strong leader in residential demand response (DR,) one of the most cost effective grid stability solutions.  Even within demand response, residential DR is an excellent niche, because working in the market for residential DR...

Toward a More Stable Grid: New Technological Solutions for an Old Problem

By: Matthew Hoff For power providers, grid stabilization has been a rising concern in recent years, especially because of the increasing use of intermittent energy sources such as wind turbines. Maintaining a stabilized energy grid is difficult because of the unpredictability of these intermittent energy sources. If wind turbines, for example, are supplying 5% of the overall power for the electric grid and the turbines stop moving because the air grows still, the grid has to find a way to kick into overdrive to compensate for this sudden decrease in energy. It's not as easy as it sounds....

Eight Cleantech Value Stocks

Tom Konrad CFA Three professional Cleantech money managers' top stock picks. On Tuesday I published Money Managers See Value in Clean Energy Sector, but Hesitate to Call the Bottom based on my correspondence with Rafael Coven, manager of the Cleantech Index (^CTIUS), Garvin Jabusch, manager of the Sierra Club Green Alpha Portfolio, and Sam Healy, a portfolio manager at Lamassu Capital.  These three professionals were in strong agreement that many cleantech stocks are currently excellent value plays, even if cleantech and the market as a whole may have farther to fall, especially if the broader market continues to decline....

Money Managers See Value in Clean Energy Sector, but Hesitate to Call the Bottom

Tom Konrad CFA Three green stock specialists see individual stocks at attractive values, but think it's too soon to call the bottom for the sector as a whole. Last month, I wrote that I'm again finding clean energy stocks that I think are bargains, and listed ten.  I was not ready to call a bottom for clean energy, and in fact said I expected the market to get worse before it gets better, so investors should keep some money on the sidelines to wait for more opportunities to emerge. In a little over a month...

Three Years of Seeking Alpha in Energy Storage

John Petersen Today is the third anniversary of my blog on investing in energy storage. While the last three years have been profoundly troubled by a market crash, a slow recovery and more ups and downs than a roller coaster, energy storage has been surging to prominence as investors realize that batteries, products we all love to hate, are a critical enabling technology for wind and solar power, efficient transportation, the smart grid and hundreds of other applications that make life more pleasant. With each passing day it's increasingly clear that energy storage is an investment mega-trend that...

The Lithium-ion Battery Glut Will Be Massive

John Petersen I hate being wrong, but Mother always taught us, "if you have to eat crow don't nibble." In February 2010 I wrote an article titled "Why I Don't Expect A Lithium-Ion Battery Glut" that's shaping up as one of the worst predictions in the history of my blog. This week Lux Research published a report titled "Using Partnerships to Stay Afloat in the Electric Vehicle Storm" that has me convinced that the capacity glut in lithium-ion batteries will be massive for at least a decade. I humbly and sincerely apologize to any readers...

GE’s Mark Vachon: “Gas is massive”

Marc Gunther How’s GE’s ecomagination  going? I put that question today to Mark Vachon, who is vice president for ecomagination at General Electric (GE). He replied by talking about natural gas. “The large macro trend of gas is massive,” he said. “Our oil and gas business will be a huge beneficiary.” An abundance of shale gas in the U.S., and methane gas reserves in Australia present a wealth of opportunities for GE, which plays all along the supply chain for natural gas. “We’re a massive player in gas exploration,” Mark said. “We have a water business that can deal...

Saviors and Saboteurs in Alternative Energy

John Petersen Last week Societe Generale published a thematic research report titled "A new world order, when demand overtakes supply" which examines the macro-economic and demographic trends that will transform the global economy over the next 20 years. It mirrored the theme of Jeremy Grantham's April 2011 quarterly letter titled "Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever" and did a great job of summarizing an issue I touched on in "How PHEVs and EVs Will Sabotage America's Drive For Energy Independence." In the words of Societe Generale: "So, while...

The Sector Information Technology Forgot

Tom Konrad CFA Information technology has mostly passed the energy sector by... but for how long? Information Technology revolutionized the way we buy things (Amazon, eBay), how we get information (Google, Wikipedia, the decline of newspapers), and how we interact with out peers (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.)  Yet so far, it has had little, if any transformative impact on energy.  Tim Healy, CEO of EnerNOC (ENOC), the world's largest  third party provider of Demand Response to utilities and grid operators, thinks that's about to change. Demand Response (DR) began decades ago with Interruptible loads and Interruptible rates,...

Drill for Geothermal Power in Developing Countries and on King Street

Tom Konrad CFA Hezy Ram Geothermal industry veteran Hezy Ram has worked in the industry for over three decades.  His career began with 28 years of experience at Ormat (ORA), where he was Executive Vice President of Business Development, after which he founded Ram Power Corp. (RPG.TO/RAMPF.PK) in 2009.  In February, he resigned as CEO of Ram Power shortly after the company warned of significant delays and cost overruns at a key Nicaraguan project, a move he says was motivated by irreconcilable differences with other board members and major shareholders regarding the company's strategy.  Today,...

Inexpensive Grid Stability Solutions

Tom Konrad, CFA With all the discussion of grid based energy storage for renewable energy integration, the two cheapest and most mature solutions are overlooked.  They are also the solutions most often overlooked by investors captivated by the story of clean technology. A few years ago, I put together some graphs to show this as dramatically as possible.  I surveyed the available data on energy storage and other grid integration technologies for the costs of existing installations, and calculated average cost per installed kW (power), per installed kWh (energy) and round trip efficiency (the percent of energy...

Channel Problems Keep BIPV Out of the Money

Dana Blankenhorn Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV)  is often in the news. There's a romance to it. Instead of having ugly solar panels on your house, your whole house could be an integrated solar system. It could use all the heat and light hitting it, from any angle, look like any other house, and pay for itself. Pythagoras Solar, an Israeli start-up, says its solar windows, cells sandwiched in glass, can both lower heating and cooling costs while they generate electricity, paying for themselves in 3-4 years. Pythagoras is private, but most publicly-traded BIPV plays are penny stocks, like...

Energy Storage: A Turbulent Second Quarter Foretells Major Changes

John Petersen The second quarter was a turbulent period for investors in the energy storage and vehicle electrification sectors. Johnson Controls (JCI), C&D Technologies (CHHP.PK) and the enchanted, mystical, gravity defying Tesla Motors (TSLA) were up a little. Everybody else was down as fear, loathing and uncertainty ran rampant and the congenital birth defects of EVs and batteries to power them proved to be insurmountable obstacles for all but St. Elon of Palo Alto, the patron saint of expensive toys. While the second quarter wasn't pleasant for most of the companies I track, I draw some comfort...

10 Clean Energy Stocks for 2011: Q2 Update

Tom Konrad CFA Some investors buy clean energy stocks because it's the right thing to do, others because we know that the diminishing availability and increasing environmental impacts of traditional fuels will eventually force society to adopt more sustainable solutions.  Cartoonist Scott Adams says we're all wrong, and we should invest in companies we hate.  Although Adams' column is meant to amuse, rather than as investment advice, it's funny because he touches on two very important truths about investing. Although a few investors can outperform the market over the long run, the vast majority can't,...