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)...

CyberTerrorism and the Smart Grid

Is There a Crack in the (Fire)Wall? Joyce Pellino Crane Last December when 325,000 Massachusetts homes went dark for days on end, I finally understood the transformative powers of electricity. For starters, my hair went limp when the blow dryer didn't turn on, my laundry piled high, my food froze in the garage, and my stove was stone cold. After five days of living like Pioneer Woman, I got tired of waiting for the utility company to restring snapped cable wires, and checked into a hotel. The nation's electric power grid is a hodgepodge of...

Net Metering Is the Solar Industry’s Junk Food

Shoppers who bring reusable bags to the grocery store buy more junk food. This example is part of a growing body of behavioral psychology research showing that when we feel good about ourselves for doing one thing right, we give ourselves permission to be careless in other areas. The solar installation industry seems to be falling into the "reusable shopping bag" trap. Solar itself is the reusable shopping bag. The junk food is net metering. Net metering is a simple, intuitive way to pay for solar generation at retail rates. But it puts solar companies on...

The Value of Net Metered Electricity in New York

by Tom Konrad, Ph.D. Net metering is unfair and is dangerous for the long term health of utilities, at least according to Raymond Wuslich, when he spoke at the 2015 Renewable Energy Conference in Poughkeepsie, NY.  Wustlich is an attorney and partner at Winston & Strawn, LLP., and advises clients across the electricity and natural gas industries on Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) matters. To make his point, Wuslich used a simplified New York residential electric bill.  In this simplified bill, the customer was charged 12¢ per kWh for...

Advanced Energy: Bargain Green Stock Turns Around

by Debra Fiakas CFA Everybody likes a bargain.  Investors really like a good cheap buy.  A review of our four alternative energy industries revealed three stocks trading below industry average multiples of forecasted earnings. This is the final article in the series, the first looked at Ormat (ORA:NYSE), and the second looked at Kadant (KAI:NYSE).    The first week in November 2014, could have been a turning point for trading in shares of Advanced Energy Industries, Inc. (AEIS:  Nasdaq).  The company reported flat sales in the quarter ending September 2014, compared to the same quarter last...

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...

Solar PV Inverter Market Shakeout Continues With ABB and Power-One Deal

James Montgomery A pair of analyst reports issued last week came to roughly the same conclusion about the market for solar PV inverters: It's getting crowded and complicated, with top incumbents facing challenges in maintaining near-term growth in an increasingly fragmented market. Those PV inverter stalwarts will need to pursue more restructuring and mergers & acquisitions to stay atop the shifting and broadening customer base, addressing everything from tough-to-crack markets (e.g. China, Japan) and embracing newer technologies such as module-level power conversion, i.e. microinverters, say IMS Research and GTM Research. This consolidation has already started to play...

Transmission Stocks: Bringing Wind Power to Where it’s Needed

Last week, Charles told us to expect wind power industry suppliers to benefit from shortages in wind turbine components. Owens Corning (NYSE:OC) which I mentioned in my Blue Chip Alternative Energy Portfolio fits nicely into this category with their composites for turbine blades, as do the power converter stocks I mentioned two weeks ago. As essential to wind power as any of these is improved power transmission. The National Wind Coordinating Collaborative states, Electrical transmission facilities connecting windy areas and load centers are sometimes non-existent or minimal. Even in cases where a good wind resource has...

2010: The Year of the Strong Grid? Part V: Hubbell Inc.

Tom Konrad, CFA Hubbell Inc. (HUB-B) is a strong grid stock that also has strong financials, signaled by a recent dividend increase. I came across Hubbell Inc. (HUB-B) when researching General Cable (BGC) for my recent article on the company.  Just one more example of when you start researching a sector, (in this case electrical transmission and distribution, or "strong grid") you never know what new companies you may find. Hubbell is a diversified electrical supplier, serving electric utility, residential, commercial, and industrial markets worldwide.  About a quarter (26%) of its revenue comes from the "Power...

Tribulations of a Meter Reader

by Debra Fiakas CFA Last week Badger Meter (BMI:  NYSE) joined a building fraternity:  companies reporting strong year-over-year sales growth, but delivering weaker than expected earnings.  However, the Badger Meter actually increased earnings by a greater magnitude than it grew sales.  The Company reported $83.5 million in net sales, representing 16.3% growth over the same quarter last year.  Net income grew by 59.3% year-over-year to $4.6 million or $0.32 per share.  As impressive as these results appear to be, the consensus had been for earnings per share of $0.41.  The stock declined sharply as investor registered their displeasure...

PowerSecure on a Solar Roll

by Debra Fiakas CFA Last week PowerSecure International (POWR:  Nasdaq) announced the award of orders valued at $100 million for new solar projects.  About 15% of the work will be completed in the final quarter of this year and the rest of the revenue will be recorded in 2016.  The announcement sent investors into a tizzy.  PowerSecure reported $283.4 million in total sales for the twelve months ending March 2015, primarily for solar power infrastructure and smart grid technology destined for electric utilities and microgrids.  Securing orders equivalent to 35% of its current revenue run rate...

Smart Grid Sector Gaining Traction from Stimulus Funds

Digi International Positioned for Growthby Joyce Pellino CraneCaught between a maturing sector and a nascent one, Digi International, Inc., (Nasdaq:DGII) is stirring opposition among research analysts, who view its recent acquisitions as either a brazen entry into an emerging area, or a compensatory cover for poor performance.Over the past five years, the company has ventured into the smart grid sector through several acquisitions of wireless and cellular technology companies. One industry observer, who did not want to be quoted, said acquisitions artificially increase revenues during a down economy.  Another, who asked not to be identified, said the Digi...

When Will Solar Microinverters Reach Commercial Scale?

Microinverters are being used in smaller commercial solar installations, but the industry is in flux and coming regulations may drastically change the playing field.

Axion Power – A Battery Manufacturer Charging Forward

John Petersen Last week Debra Fiakas of Crystal Equity Research published an article titled "No Battery Producer Left Behind" that was based on old information about the relationship between Exide Technologies (XIDE) and Axion Power International (AXPW) and reached several erroneous conclusions. Since I'm a former Axion director, the stock is my biggest holding and I follow the company like a hawk, Tom Konrad asked me to clarify the record and present a high level overview of Axion's business history, stock market dynamics and technical accomplishments over the last four years. Since Tom's request is a...

The Ontario Green Energy Act: What Can Alt Energy Legislations Do For Investors

Dedicated legislations have been at the core of some of the most impressive regional growth stories in alternative energy, most notably in Germany with the Renewable Energy Sources Act or in California with the various legislative solar initiatives. On Monday, the Canadian province of Ontario became the latest jurisdiction to join the fray as lawmakers introduced the Green Energy and Green Economy Act. Why should investors care? Because such legislations have been at the core of some of the most impressive regional growth stories in alternative energy.  As a bit of a backgrounder on Ontario, there...

Discom-fort: Barriers to Renewables in India

by Ishaan Goel Energy is crucial to India’s policy agenda. Millions of households are yet to gain reliable access to electricity, hampering their potential for economic growth. Severe pollution issues create widespread health problems. Renewables are prioritized as viable solutions across the political spectrum, with their low costs and ease of installation in remote regions. The current administration has ambitious plans for renewable energy (RE), targeting an almost 4x increase in installed capacity to 450 GW by 2030 and introducing a spate of tax and investment reforms. At the heart of the Indian power supply chain lie distribution companies (discoms). The...
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