Understanding Manufacturing Economics for Grid-Scale Energy Storage

John Petersen I have a new favorite word AGGREGATION! At the risk of sounding like a reporter, I’m going to summarize a pre-holiday news story you might have missed but need to know about. In late November the PJM Interconnect, the largest of nine regional grid system operators in the US, announced that it had begun buying frequency regulation services from small-scale, behind the meter, demand response assets in Pennsylvania. The first resources brought on-line by PJM were variable speed pumps at a water treatment plant and a 500 kW industrial battery array...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

A Profitable Smart Grid Penny Stock Aims for a NASDAQ Listing

Tom Konrad CFA A NASDAQ listing could bring a quick profit to investors who buy now, but beware the business risk. Ambient Corp. (ABTG.OB) offers an Internet Protocol (IP) smart grid communications platform to electric utilities.  So far, they have exactly one customer: Duke Energy (DUK).  Duke selected Ambient's X-series communication node solution, which flexibly gathers data from multiple smart meters and relays it to the utility.  For instance, in some cases Duke is using Ambient's nodes to gather data from both Echelon Corporation's (ELON) smart meters using data over powerline technology, and Badger Meter's (BMI) smart...

ABB Group – A Cleantech Company?

Tom Konrad CFA Power and automation giant ABB, Ltd. (NYSE:ABB) was named Cleantech Corporation of the Year at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco. The company has been focused on acquiring start ups in the cleantech space for the last couple of years, with two significant ones in 2010: Ventyx, a provider of IT systems to utilities, and Baldor Electric, the premier supplier of high-efficiency motors in the US. I very much like ABB's approach to cleantech. I'd even written about Baldor as a good way to invest in energy efficiency earlier in 2010 just a couple months before...

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...

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...

Two Stocks For Grid Storage – ZBB Energy and Axion Power

John Petersen On March 4, 2011 the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory published a comprehensive review of "Electrochemical Energy Storage Technologies for Green Grid" that is a must-read for serious investors who want to understand the technical and economic intricacies of the energy storage sector. It explains why storage is a key enabling technology for wind and solar power, the smart grid, efficient transportation and a legion of high-technology manufacturing and service enterprises that can't survive without reliable power. It also explains why energy storage is an investment mega-trend that will endure for decades. While I normally try to...

General Electric: Seeking to Define the Smart Grid

By Harris Roen General Electric (GE) is a standout company that supplies products and services in the alternative energy and environmental fields. GE also has a robust stake in smart grid technology; its energy division alone has products that include power delivery, smart metering, charging systems, and power sensing. According to Cleantech, GE is a player in 5 of the 6 critical business areas affecting smart grid development.   As part of their commitment to shape the future of the smart grid, GE committed $200 million for entrepreneurs, students and other innovators as a “call to action” for...

MasTec (MTZ): Connectivity to the Smart Grid

By Harris Roen An important part of the smart grid will be devices that connect the user to the grid, or “reading points”. These reading points go way beyond the current meter reading system that just monitor the amount of energy used. The long held belief that meter reading was the only way to monitor household and business’s consumption is quickly being replaced with alternate ideas.   MasTec (MTZ) is a contracting firm with $2.1 billion in annual sales focused on utility and communications infrastructure. It specializes in communications, high-speed Internet and electric distribution, as well as...

Understanding the Smart Grid

By Harris Roen The modernization of the electric grid is an exciting investment opportunity that promises to be one of the biggest energy investment stories of the early 21st century. Smart Grid systems will provide large growth opportunities for many companies around the globe. This is being accomplished through a combination of updating existing technologies along with the creation of new systems aimed at improving the quality of the electric grid. By understanding how the dream of a smart grid will become a reality, an informed investor will be in a very good position to...

The Best Peak Oil Investments Meet the Smart Grid: Telvent GIT SA (TLVT)

Tom Konrad CFA I'm bullish on Smart Transportation, which is my term for applying information technology to make our transportation system more efficient.  The majority of my list of Smart Transportation Stocks focus on GPS navigation.  I've been a fan of GPS navigation ever since 2001, when I first experienced the relief using one while driving in an unfamiliar city.  But I'm much less enthusiastic about GPS Navigation stocks: I feel the industry is too competitive, which is great for the consumer, but not so great for the shareholder.  Hence, I'm drawn to the three Smart...

The Best Peak Oil Investments Meet the Strong Grid: CVTech Group

Tom Konrad CFA CVTech Group (CVT.TO, CVTPF.PK) operates in two of my favorite clean energy sectors: electricity transmission and distribution and efficient vehicles.  Here is a look at the company's fundamentals. In "The Strongest Strong Grid Stocks" of my 2010: The Year of the Strong Grid? series, I took a quick look at CVTech Group's financial ratios, and decided not to look deeper because they had considerably more debt in comparison to income than the other electricity transmission ("strong grid") stocks I covered in that article.  I came across CVTech again while looking at companies involved in...

2010: The Year of the Strong Grid?: Index

Tom Konrad CFA A somewhat delayed index to my Year of the Strong Grid series, looking into electricty transmission and distribution (T&D) or "Strong Grid" companies. Part Subject / Description Stocks mentioned I Introduction: Why Electricity Transmission and Distribution is a good investment. None II Comparing the financial strength of eletricty T&D companies ABB AMSC CPTC.OB CVT.TO BGC JST MTZ MYRG PIKE PWR RSSYF.PK SI VMI WCC III EMCORE Group (EME) and AZZ Incorporated (AZZ) ...