ESG5 Summit brief

A conference hosted in NYC in early April, 2019 ESG5 SUMMIT showcased the issues of current concern to institutional asset managers.  ESG as a term is a rebranding of SRI (socially responsible investing) and CSR (corporate social responsibility) now under broad headings of Environment Social & Governance, to reflect that it is more than just an investing style, but is concerned with risk management and value creation.   ESG strategies are being pursued by a range of participants, including public and private pension funds, mutual funds and ETFs, family offices and sovereign wealth funds, and advisors and advocacy groups. The goals are...

Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) Tax Equity Conference Brief

I recently attended the Solar Energy Industry Association's (SEIA) Finance and Tax Seminar in New York. The subject matter in this event delved into issues related to tax equity finance.  Each panel session was moderated by a tax attorney or an accountant, and most of the content of the sessions consisted of technical tax law. To place the discipline into context, one speaker noted that the tax equity renewables investing deal volume in 2018 was $2-3B for solar and $9B for wind, and the number of tax equity participants is roughly only 25-35 large corporations.  So unless there are changes...
smart roadway infographic

Roadway Revolution: Meet the Smart Highways of the Future

by Giles Kirkland Even though many states seem to enter the “construction season” every spring, there’s still a significant backlog of vital repairs and improvements needed for state roads, interstates and bridges – around $420 billion worth as of 2017. Not only are our roads falling apart, there are greater numbers of people in more vehicles on them. But what if, instead of simply following same repaving or rebuilding formula that never seems to catch up, municipalities get “smarter” with their fixes? Smart cars use the newest technologies to save energy, improve safety, and assist in navigation. Missing from many of the...

The MacArthur Foundation Invests In Climate Solutions- And In Fossil Fuels

By Marc Gunther.  Eighteen months ago, the people who manage the endowment at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation got some bad news: Investments they had made in funds managed by EnerVest, a Houston-based private equity firm that operates more than 33,000 oil and gas wells across the US, had plummeted in value to almost nothing. The losses were small, relatively speaking — roughly $15 million, a fraction of the foundation’s $7 billion endowment — but they were unwelcome, if only because they called attention to the fact that MacArthur, whose mission is, famously, to build a “more just, verdant and peaceful world,” had...
solar storage and finance

Conference Brief – Solar & Storage Finance

Renewable energy finance has many different kinds of participants, as revealed recently at the Solar & Storage Finance conference hosted in NYC.  .   Listening to the live actors from the financial side of the renewable power industry moved the issues off the page, to a more concrete experience of their specific concerns, including the extent to which their distinct missions were siloed, how they are competitive, and how they synergize. The presentations were organized to highlight these differences.  Several panel discussions were set back-to-back the contrast between lenders vs tax equity investors, both in terms of their goals, but also...

Solar & Storage Finance Conference Notes

I attended the Solar & Storage Finance conference hosted in NYC in late October 2018.  Presenters included a mix of capital providers & asset managers, private non-profit entities & public agencies, legal, accounting & consulting firms, intermediaries, firms providing risk analysis, ratings & mitigation, & various vendors of energy storage and IT-related services.  The tone of the discussions was noteworthy for its near total absence of ideological comments about environmental urgency.   Rather, it was a meeting of finance technicians and technocrats focused on the nuts & bolts of accomplishing those ends, with the merits and relevance of mission assumed. The...
decarbonization

Green New Deal Roadmap – Accelerating Renewable Energy Infrastructure Development

Investment in renewable energy is rising, but clearly needs to grow faster to meet the goals for an expedited transition away from carbon infrastructure if we are to avoid dangerous climate change, given that now even the Trump administration forecasts a 7°C increase by 2100, which would be catastrophic. The Paris Agreement determined that in order to keep warming below 2°C, the global economy would need to be restricted to a 600 gigaton carbon “budget”, and completely decarbonize by 2040. Emissions must be cut by 70% in the Paris-congruent Remap case, and 90% of those cuts in energy-related CO2 emissions can...
Permaculture flower - finance

Presentation: A Permaculture Portfolio

Unfortunately, my attempt to record my presentation last Monday failed... still learning to use Screencastify.  There was a lot that was not in the text of the presentation itself- I use slides more as a reminder of what I want to talk about than a script. On the other hand, it would have been a 2 hour recording, so flipping through the slides will be at least save you time.  The link to the PDF version is below: A Permaculture Portfolio
Energy A Human History by Richard Rhodes

Richard Rhodes, “Energy: A Human History”

Richard Rhodes has written an amazing book. He aspired to tell the tales of energy transitions over the past 400 years. His Energy: A Human History accomplishes that task. The book is daunting in size for non-required reading. It is filled with brief stories of this or that device or discovery or development, and almost overwhelming in both scope and detail. I wondered, at times, when the payoff would come. My advice: If you are at all interested in the topic, stick with it. To my economics-trained mind the book lacks analytical structure. One story after another, linked together by fuel source or technology, layer...

Sustainable Investment Opportunity In 2017

by Garvin Jabusch Lord Nicholas Stern recently said, “Strong investment in sustainable infrastructurethat’s the growth story of the future. This will set off innovation, discovery, much more creative ways of doing things. This is the story of growth, which is the only one available because any attempt at high-carbon growth would self-destruct .” More pointedly, the Investment Bank division at Morgan Stanley in 2016 advised clients that long-term investment in fossil fuels may be a bad financial decision, writing, “Investors cannot assume economic growth will continue to rely heavily on an energy sector powered predominantly by fossil fuels." What...

What Obama Did To Coal Investors, What The Next President Might, And How Investors...

by Tom Konrad Ph.D., CFA Investing in the past is a good way to lose money.  Just ask anyone who has been investing in coal stocks since Obama we re-elected. A glance at the chart above shows that the VanEck Vectors Coal ETF (KOL) is down about 50% over the last four years, even while the broad market (as represented by the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY)) has gained almost 50%.  But even if we knew this was going to happen, should investors have rushed into the energy sectors most loved by liberals: That is, Wind, Solar,...

Can Public Equity Investing Have Impact?

by Garvin Jabusch There’s an argument in the world of impact investing that goes something like, "impact happens only through private investments; there is no real impact, apart from shareholder engagement efforts, in public equity investing." An associated perception is that investment impact means capitalizing an enterprise beyond what would happen otherwise, meaning private equity alone has the power to provide real impact. But is this true? Publicly traded corporations are the largest and most visible social and environmental bellwethers of the global economy, and the high allocation to public equities in most investor portfolios means public equity...

What’s In Store For Cleantech Stocks?

Tom Konrad Ph.D., CFA talks with four investors about the rocky year ahead for the stock market and the likely impact of the market correction. Note: This article was first published on GreenTechMedia on January 21st. With the markets in free fall since the start of the year, many investors are rightfully worried about their portfolios' rapid declines. Although one of the biggest drivers of recent declines has been the fall in fossil fuel (especially oil) prices, clean energy investors have been far from immune. Is it time for clean energy investors to run...

Molycorp: Holding a Stinky Bag

by Debra Fiakas CFA   Last week news agencies reported plans by Molycorp (MCPIQ:  NYSE) to move forward with plans to sell major assets as part of a plan to emerge from bankruptcy.  Molycorp was the single largest producer of rare earths in the U.S. until it discontinued product at its Mountain Pass mine in Colorado.  Molycorp filed for bankruptcy protection in June 2015 after it became apparent that it could no longer support the debt on its balance sheet on historically low selling prices for its rare earth materials. The turn of the tide for Molycorp...

Interest Rate Increase? FuhGettaBoutIt!

by Debra Fiakas CFA There has been considerable fuss in recent weeks about the Federal Open Market Committee decision to raise its benchmark interest rate.  The one-quarter point increase has finally been announced and investors now are watching with bated breath to see how the increased cost of funds at the Fed ‘window’ will impact borrowing costs for companies large and small.  In our Beach Boys Index of alternative energy producers, we found a number of companies that rely on debt as a capital source.  However, not all energy producers have debt.  So when Janet Yellen...

Bearing The Interest Burden

by Debra Fiakas CFA Smaller companies frequently avoid debt as a capital source, relying instead mostly on equity.  After all common stock  holders are often content to wait for years for a dividend as the small, young company secures its market position and builds profits.  Pesky creditors are always knocking on the door for interest payments and principal return. Yet, a number of smaller companies included in our Beach Boys Index of alternative fuel producers have chosen to use debt. We reviewed a group of them to determine the impact of increase in interest rates that could...