Power Plant Costs & The Case For Energy Efficiency

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a presentation that was given by FERC officials on the phenomenon of rapidly rising costs in US power generation (presentation link at the end of this post). The FERC, or Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is America's energy watchdog. The presentation begins by noting that across America's major electricity hubs, power prices are up significantly on last year (between 62% in the Midwest and 123% in NYC) and that, unfortunately, this probably isn't an anomaly. In fact, the presentation argues, there may be something secular at play. Two main trends are noted....

Short Demand for Cree High and Rising

I got a call from my broker this morning asking me if I'd be willing to loan out my shares of Cree, Inc. (NASD:CREE) to a short seller.  Since the only cost to me is that I will not be able to vote my shares, and I will earn 2.5% per annum on the value, I said "yes."  Normally, brokerages get the shares they lend out to shorts from margin accounts with a margin balance.  Since I never carry a balance (although I do have a margin account in order to trade options) they must ask my permission...

Geothermal Heat Pumps: The Next Generation

Tom Konrad CFA The most efficient way to heat and cool a building just got more efficient. Geothermal heat pump diagram via Bigstock Climatemaster, a division of LSB Industries (NYSE:LXU), recently announced that their new Trilogy 40 geothermal heat pump (GHP) had been certified by the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) to exceed 40 Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) under ground loop conditions. EER is the ratio of effective cooling (heat removed) to the energy used, at maximal load, and is the standard...

Wise Energy Use Stocks Part 4: Metering and Energy Management

A look at Itron, Echelon, Woodward Governor, EnerNOC, and Energy Recovery

PFB Corporation (PFB.TO,PFBOF.PK)

Tom Konrad, CFA PFB Corporation is a manufacturer of energy efficient building materials, including SIPD and ICFs, based on expanded polystyrene.  The company's sales have fallen in response to the housing downturn, but less so than most of the housing industry, despite a strong balance sheet and cash flow.  I consider the stock a buy below C$6. NOTE: I'm taking a break in order to take a trip to California for some vacation and to moderate a panel at the San Francisco Moneyshow.  This article was written in January 2010, but I delayed publication for seven months because...

Wise Energy Use Stocks: Efficient Lighting

Opportunity On Friday, October 10, 2008 , I stopped being bearish for the first time since the 1990s.  My long term expectation of a crash that didn't come had been undermining my self confidence.  Even the decline in 2001 and 2002 had not seemed severe enough, given the financial imbalances in the system.  I had begun to worry that I might be genetically bearish, and that my worries had nothing to do with a market that was greatly overvalued. I am relieved to say that I am not a permabear, and that the market as a...

Lime Energy’s Long Dark Year Of The Soul

Tom Konrad The last year has been hard on Lime Energy (NASD:LIME Disclosure: I own this stock.)  The company discovered problems with its internal reporting over a year ago, and the effort to restate the books and establish proper controls took much longer than anyone expected, in large part because the internal investigation uncovered additional problems as it proceeded. While the company was in danger of delisting, creditors were reluctant to provide funding, and this led the company to sell its two most capital intensive businesses: its asset development business, and its ESCO business.  The ESCO business required backing...

Wise Energy Use Stocks, Part 5:Global Services Companies

General Electric (GE), Honeywell (HON), IBM, Johnson Controls (JCI), Siemens (SI)

Will We Have Too Much Generation for Renewables?

Too Many Brownies Before Dinner "When you feed your kid six brownies before dinner, you can't expect him to eat the salad, no matter how good it is."  So says Leslie Glustrom, a long term renewable energy advocate.  This is her metaphor for why Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL) has been reluctant to pursue Demand Side Management (DSM) and renewable energy projects in Colorado as they have been in Minnesota.  Because Xcel is currently constructing 500 MW of new coal-fired generation, and they are also interested in a 300-350 MW IGCC plant by 2013, they may have little demand for...

FLIR: A Red-hot Energy Efficiency Stock

On Monday, I wrote that I wouldn't buy a house without an energy audit.  For now, I'm in the minority, but I don't expect that to last.  Each of these trends is likely to lead to more homes getting energy audits: Rising energy costs: as energy prices rise, knowing what to do to improve your home's energy efficiency will become more valuable. Weak real estate market.  Now that the boom is past us, new home builders need to put more effort into providing and advertising a quality product in order to attract buyers and stay in business. ...

Power Integrations: Profiting from Efficient Electronics

Tom Konrad, CFA With new climate legislation or a renewable portfolio standard unlikely now that Republicans control the US House of Representatives, progress on clean energy is likely to come mostly from action at the state level, and from regulation at agencies such as the EPA, rather than national legislation.  Why Energy Efficiency Standards Make Economic Sense One type of regulation that is fairly uncontroversial is improving energy efficiency standards, that is regulation of the amount of energy an appliance or other device can consume during normal use.  In an efficient market, regulation might bring...

Ameresco’s CEO Expects Return To Growth In Q3

Tom Konrad CFA With earnings announcements coming fast and thick over the last two weeks, it has been all I can do to keep up, let alone go into detail about the companies I usually follow, as I did with Maxwell Technologies (NASD:MXWL) earlier this week. (Note: I am currently long Ameresco and Short Maxwell.) Rather than remain completely silent, I’m going to attempt to focus on the main take-aways I’ve gleaned from the filings and earnings calls, starting with Ameresco’s (NASD:AMRC) potentially confusing earnings. Another “Miss” Ameresco again missed First Call analysts’ average earnings estimates for the...

Jim Rogers: An Energy Efficiency Stock Pick

The same Fortune interview with Jim Rogers, which I referenced yesterday also contains an excerpt from his new book, A Bull in China.  In it, he goes over a few stock picks, including one I thought worth bringing to the attention of investors interested in profiting from rising CAFE standards and other increases in vehicle efficiency:  Jim says: Aluminum Corp. of China (Chalco) (NYSE: ACH). Three year trend: profits up 86.7%, revenues up 88.8%. Chalco is the largest producer of primary aluminum in the world's fastest-growing aluminum market.  Established in 1999 out...

Trading Strategy Around Lime Energy’s Possible Feb 2 Delisting

Tom Konrad Several readers have asked me if I still recommend buying Lime Energy (NASD:LIME) now that it looks like the company could be delisted from NASDAQ on February 2nd.  I won’t go into the details of why, when, or how, since John Downey has done an excellent job of covering that in the Charlotte Business Journal. Instead, I’ll look at the various possible scenarios, and how it will likely be best to trade the stock.  To understand what will happen, we first have to decide A) will Lime’s appeal against delisting be granted? and B) Will Lime be able to...

Book Review: Investment Opportunities for a Low Carbon World (Geothermal + Efficiency)

Charles Morand Last Thursday, I reviewed two chapters from the recently published book "Investment Opportunities for a Low Carbon World"*. This post reviews two more.  Geothermal Energy Alexander Richter, Glitnir Bank (now Íslandsbanki) Geothermal is one of the most interesting forms of clean power generation there is. As noted by the author, the most convincing argument for geothermal electricity is the fact that it operates at capacity factors in the upper 90s. This makes it the only renewable technology suitable for baseload power with the exception of dam-based (i.e. large-scale) hydro. However, as...

Why the Financial Crisis is like Energy Inefficiency

Tom Konrad, Ph.D. I have a regular column called Greener Money in Smart Energy Living Magazine.  The Spring issue just printed, and I'd like to highlight this column, because it discusses ideas I have not written about elsewhere.  The column begins: As people become more aware of how we use energy, many become amazed and appalled at the sheer waste of it.  Why are homes built without attention to insulation and sealing that would not only make them more comfortable, but also mean they cost less to live in, even with the slightly larger mortgage payments?  Why do...