Solar: Energy, But Not Oil

by Garvin Jabusch Solar photovoltaic (PV) as a means of deriving energy is fundamentally different from fossil fuel-based commodities (oil, coal, and gas). Consider: A solar PV panel can be thought of as nothing more than a hugely oversized computer chip a bunch of circuitry embedded in a silicon wafer. Indeed, in most economic sector classification schemes (GICS, etc.), PV manufacturers are defined as "semiconductors," which is basically true (if misleading in other ways).  So different are the driving economics behind tech-based and commodities-based means of deriving energy, that we at Green Alpha are recommending to Standard &...

Alternative Energy Stock Returns, Past and Future

By Harris Roen Alternative energy became a serious market player after the turn of the millennium. Since that time, solar, wind, smart grid and other alternative energy stocks have experienced both strong up and down trends. The forces at work driving these markets are complex, counterintuitive, and sometimes mysterious. This article looks at what has been driving the price of alternative energy markets, and as a result, alternative energy company stocks. Looking ahead, we will also consider what should affect the direction of alternative energy stock prices. Past trends in Alternative Energy Stocks The Wilder Hill...

Alternative Energy Will Outperform The Market, With Storage Stocks Leading the Way

The public relations firm Waggener Edstrom released a survey of investors and analysts yesterday seeking opinions on what was in store for alternative energy for 2009 (link to the survey at the end of this article). Of the 81 respondents, 47 were institutional investors, 26 were brokerage analysts, five were from independent research firms and three were classified as "Other industry participants". Overall, 58% of respondents were from the buy side, 32% from the sell side and the remainder from "Other". Here are a few tidbits that caught my attention. Storage: The Next Boom? Overall, 50% of respondents expect...

Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race?

Tom Konrad CFA Highlights from a report on Clean Energy investments from the Pew Charitable Trusts. The Pew Charitable Trusts just released their report on Clean Energy, finance, and investment in the Group of Twenty (G20) economies in 2010 . I had the opportunity to review a pre-release version of the report. Some 2010 trends they discovered were encouraging or exciting, some were disappointing. I also had the chance to speak to the director of Pew's Clean energy Program, Phyllis Cuttino, about the report. Here are the highlights from the report and our discussion. Clean Energy Sectors...

Electricity and Water– Can We Have Both? 

by John V. AndersonThe Water-Electricity Connection: Basic Principles There’s been a lot of discussion – and a fair amount of controversy – lately about water use in power plants. Unfortunately a lot of this discussion is based on an incomplete understanding of the fundamental issues involved. First of all, virtually all of the non-hydro power we consume is generated by heat engines of one sort or another. All heat engines absorb energy from a hot source (e.g. a flame, nuclear core, or solar), and they all reject energy to a cold sink – that is they...

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...

Big Money Looking For Green Investments

Sean Kidney Climate Finance session at UN Summit is electric.  Insurers go wild with promises; investors plead for green investments; Jim Kim almost breaks out in song about green bonds. It's the day after the UN Climate Summit party in New York. Yes I do feel as if I'm hungover; but it was a gas. If you're one of those who worry about the world, there is something magical in being inside the totemic General Assembly, with it's embodiment of one world idealism. Ban Ki Moon's audacious Summit convening (that's really the only power we allow...

Saudis Confirm Switch from Oil to Solar

By Jeff Siegel You probably wouldn't recognize him if you saw him on the street. Heck, you probably don't even know his name. But Ali Al-Naimi is one of the most powerful men in the world. As the Saudi oil minister and chairman of Saudi Aramco, Al-Naimi is not particularly popular with U.S. oil producers, especially after telling the media he didn't care if oil prices crashed to $20 because it was not in the interest of OPEC producers to cut production  regardless of price. Still, he remains the most influential oilman on the planet. Listed as one of Forbes' 50...

How to Measure the Next Economy?

Garvin Jabusch In search of a sucessor to the Global Industry Classification Standard The Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) is the framework within which finance types organize companies and their stocks into industries and sectors. You've heard the names for these groups many times: energy, transportation, materials, commercial services, etc. These divisions have been useful in attempting "to enhance the investment research and asset management process for financial professionals worldwide" (mscibarra.com, 3/2010). And, for a while, GICS did a decent job of keeping portfolio managers, investment advisors and their clients reasonably well organized in their thinking about...

Commodity Energy Vs. Technology Energy: This Changes Everything

by Garvin Jabusch We now live in a global economy with two fundamentally different types of energy: commodity-based in the form of fossil fuels and uranium, and technology-based, represented primarily by solar and wind. That observation is interesting as far as it goes, but what does it mean? The term renewable (as it pertains to energy) gets used so often that it is easy to forget what it really entails. For starters, tech-based renewables become less expensive over time, as demand for them drives scale, innovation, and improves cost structures in implementation (think about the last couple of computers...

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...

6 Reasons Why Stock Markets Are No Longer Fit For Purpose

A new investment architecture is set to emerge By John Fullerton and Tim MacDonald Stock markets are not as portrayed on TV, the nerve center of capitalism.  Stock markets are nothing more than tools to facilitate the exchange of stock certificates that represent contractual rights that have little to do with real ownership. Today’s stock markets are primarily about speculating on the future prices of stock certificates; they are largely disconnected from real investment or what goes on in the real economy of goods and services.  It’s time for real investors such as pension funds and endowments to...

Top Questions to Ask a Venture Capitalist in the First Pitch

David Gold Katherine Connors, Miss Iowa USA 2010 throws the ceremonial first pitch.  Source: Cathy T, via Wikimedia Commons You landed your first pitch at a venture capitalist’s (VC) office. You’ve practiced the pitch and have your laptop fired up to deliver. So, like a sprinter at the sound of the gunshot, you dive in hard and heavy to make sure you get through the deck. After all, you might only have one chance to excite them with your company’s story. Inevitably, with all the questions...

The Pope and the Climates of Justice

by Jake Raden Pope Francis’s encyclical on global warming and environmental degradation, Laudato Si, identifies our disruptive effects on our climate as social justice and spiritual issues. “Those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms,” he writes, lamenting that those with privilege lack a “sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.” (Image Courtesy of: http://www.cgdev.org/page/mapping-impacts-climate-change) The image above is from the Center for Global Development and it’s one in a series that ranks...

The Truth Ain’t That Incovinient Anymore, So What’s Next?

I attended Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth lecture in Toronto tonight. I assume many of you have seen the movie so I'm not going to go into the details of the presentation, which is essentially the same as the movie give-or-take a couple of slides. Instead, I'm going to share with you some of the thoughts I had as I was listening to the former VP. Firstly, I bought this whole climate change thing a long time ago and I've seen the movie, so substantively I got very little out of this. As with the movie, I...

Charitable Investments: How to Grow Your Portfolio While Making a Difference

by Mark Tan The country is currently experiencing a shift toward more sustainable living. In addition to the wide array of whole food markets and hybrid cars available to today’s consumer, many people also want their investments working for the greater good. Although these investments have been around for more than a decade, the past few years have seen substantial growth in the areas of charitable investments, sustainable 401ks, and green bonds. No matter your passion, your financial portfolio can make a difference in the world, while still generating profit for you. Charitable Investing 101...