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...

Energy Infrastructure Construction Made Easy

by Debra Fiakas CFA Electric power companies need plenty of generating plants and distribution works to bring electricity to our doors.  Electric utilities are very good at generating electricity and managing relationships with the families and businesses that use the power, but building all that infrastructure  -  drawing up plans, hauling in materials and fastening girders  -  is not necessarily a power company’s strong suit.  Enter Quanta, Inc. (PWR:  NYSE) with a full menu of design, engineering and construction services for electricity generation and distribution infrastructure. Solving problems for electric utilities is good business for Quanta.  The...

2010: The Year of the Strong Grid? Part III

Two Strong Grid Stocks in Hiding Tom Konrad, CFA A look at two transmission (or "Strong Grid") stocks I missed previously: EMCORE Group and AZZ Incorporated. In part I of this series, I made the case that 2010 might be the year that transmission stocks caught investors' attention, as smart grid stocks did in 2009.  In part II, I looked at the transmission stocks in our Electric Grid stock list, and compared their financial strength.  My initial screen, based on Current ratio, Cash on Hand, Debt, Cash from Operations, P/E ratio, and dividend yeild allowed...

Smart Grid’s Expected 250% 5-Yr Growth Rate is Great News for Cisco, IBM, Accenture,...

Bill Paul Lux Research forecast last week that the global smart grid market will grow some 250% over the next five years, reaching nearly $16 billion by 2015 compared with today’s $4.5 billion. Interestingly, Lux further forecast that only a few select firms will take full advantage of this looming largesse. It’s understandable why the payoff won’t be widely shared. As regulated entities (on the transmission and distribution side), electric utilities have an obligation (specifically, the time-honored “obligation to serve”) that effectively requires that they be conservative when partnering with IT firms that can provide the money-saving,...

The Case For Transmission, and Transmission Stock List

by Tom Konrad CFA We cannot choose between transmission and renewable distributed electricity.  Local renewable generation requires long distance transmission to even out variations of supply.  Hence, both advocates of distributed renewables and large wind and solar farms should support transmission improvements.  Here are a few stocks which should benefit from such investments. Shortly after I launched Clean Energy Wonk, Blogger took the site down because I made the mistake of including both the words "Cheap" and "Free" in the title of an article about Energy Efficiency.  Since it can apparently take up to 2 months for a human...

2010: The Year of the Strong Grid? Part VI: Will the Real Strong Grid...

Tom Konrad, CFA For clean electricity to flourish, the electric grid needs not only to be smarter, but more robust.  This is where my strong grid stocks come in.  But stringing wires for power is a lot like stringing wires for telecommunications as well a large number of other businesses which do not have much to do with the energy trends I hope will boost the long term prospect of these companies.  Knowing how much these companies earn from grid infrastructure helps predict how much they will benefit from the trend. Unlike many of the financial statistics...

Hype Busters From Lux Research Explain Grid Based Energy Storage

John Petersen In 1883 Thomas Edison said, "The storage battery is one of those peculiar things which appeals to the imagination, and no more perfect thing could be desired by stock swindlers than that very selfsame thing. ... Just as soon as a man gets working on the secondary battery it brings out his latent capacity for lying." The problem isn't so much the batteries, which haven't improved all that much over the last century. Instead, the problem lies in the fertile imaginations of scientists, engineers, politicians, ideologues, analysts and investors who focus on new energy...

Is the New Smart Grid ETF GRID All That Smart?

Tom Konrad, CFA First Trust Launched a Grid Infrastructure Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) on November 17th.  Although the First Trust Nasdaq Clean Edge Smart Grid Infrastructure Index Fund (Nasdaq: GRID) is labeled a "Smart Grid" ETF to capture popular excitement around smart grid technology, it covers the whole grid infrastructure sector.  This broader focus is good for clean energy investors. I've been an advocate of investing in electric transmission and smart gird stocks since early 2007, and for almost a year now, a regular reader has been telling me to create a transmission ETF so he can buy...

Democratizing the Grid

by Daryl Roberts In a previous article I investigated the question of whether private sector capital was being stimulated sufficiently enough to build out renewable infrastructure on pace to reach climate goals.  I found that on the upper end, giant institutional funds were only mobilizing a tiny fraction of their total Assets Under Management, due to regulatory constraints and uncompetitive yields.  On the lower end, smaller scale funding seemed to be growing, with facilitation from intermediaries, fintech aggregation services, and increased access at lower levels to complicated derisking strategies. But I now find reporting that capital is over-mobilized, that solar may...

Comparing Electricity Storage and Transmission

Electricity Storage and Transmission are naturally complementary, and more of both will be needed.  But given limited time and resources, where should those of us who want to see as much renewable electricity on the grid as soon as possible concentrate our efforts?  The choice is not immediately clear. Dennis Ray, ED of Power Systems Engineering Research Center (PSERC) was quoted as saying “Regardless of contractual arrangements that are subject to environmental regulation, the ultimate dispatch pattern that will determine the actual emissions is largely dependent on transmission constraints and reliability considerations.” Horses for Courses At a basic...
Enphase M-Score

Hopping Off The Short Enphase Bandwagon

by Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA Last week, I wrote that I'd taken a short position in Enphase Energy Inc. (ENPH). I have now closed out that position and don't intend to go short again. My decision to go short was based on four factors: I'm worried about risk in the overall market, and so am considering opportunistic short positions as a hedge. Prescience Point Capital Management released a report accusing Enphase of earnings manipulation. The report seemed well-researched from a purely accounting point of view. My favored indicator for avoiding companies which might be engaging in earnings manipulation, Beneish M-Score was...

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)...

2010: The Year of the Strong Grid? Part II

The Strongest Strong Grid Stocks Tom Konrad, CFA A comparison of the financial strength of transmission (or "Strong Grid") companies. In Part I of this article I made the case that transmission stocks, or "Strong Grid" might be a clean energy sector that takes off in 2010, as Smart Grid stocks and Battery stocks did in 2009.  If the sector does take off, the rising tide will probably float all boats, but if it doesn't, it will probably be better to be in the strongest such companies, because, as in 2009, the harsh financial climate will probably mean that...

Drawing the Right Lessons from the Texas "Wind" Emergency

On February 26, 2008, a drop in wind generation by about 1400 MW over ten minutes, coupled with an increase in demand of 4412 MW due to colder weather, and lower-than scheduled production from other power suppliers, led ERCOT, the Texas grid operator to cut 1100 MW of power to interruptible customers for about 90 minutes.   Misconceptions All these facts come from a Reuters article misleadingly titled "Loss of wind causes Texas power grid emergency."  I was dismayed a few weeks ago when this misleading reporting led the generally insightful Master Resource Report to conclude "This is a clear...

EESAT And Energy Storage Opportunities On The Smart Grid

John Petersen Last week I appeared as a luncheon speaker at EESAT 2009, a biennial international technical conference sponsored by the DOE, Sandia National Laboratories and the Electricity Storage Association that focuses on storage technologies for utility applications. The conference included dozens of high-level technical presentations from storage technology developers and was far and away the best-organized event I've ever attended. The only notable absence was a large contingent of buyers, which left some participants wondering whether they were preaching to the choir. Nevertheless, I was encouraged by rapid growth in the number and size of utility-scale demonstration...

Investment Ideas From the One-House Grid

In June, I wrote how intermittent power sources such as photovoltaics and wind would have to compete with baseload technologies such as IGCC "Clean Coal" and nuclear for capacity on the grid.  The key problem is that neither baseload technologies nor intermittent technologies are able to match themselves to the fluctuations of demand.  This creates a need for technologies which can fill the varying gaps between supply from these sources, and normal energy use.  From the comments, it seems like I was not completely clear how intermittent and baseload power cause problems for each other, so I will start...