An interesting post from Tom Konrad. Although he doesn't come right out and say it, the gist is these aren't businesses as the term is generally understood but rather are currently just subsidy conduits.
He goes into a quick overview of efficiency stocks and ends with:
Green energy experts accept that solar panels are one of the least cost effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Nevertheless, many buy solar stocks. They should rethink their investment strategies.
I recently spoke on "Stock Selection in the Era of Peak Oil and Climate Change" at the ASPO 2009 International Peak Oil Conference. Whenever green energy enthusiasts find out that I analyze green energy stocks professionally, they react in one of two ways. Many want to know my top stock pick in general (New Flyer Industries NFI-UN.TO/NFYIF.PK) or in their favorite sector (see below.) Others tell me about their own green energy investments.
My guess is that the latter group hopes I will stamp some sort of stock guru seal of approval on their portfolio. If so, they usually go away disappointed. This is not only because I have not yet been issued with a special seal by the stock guru union. It's also because, even if I had such a stamp of approval, I would seldom need to use it.
I find that even industry experts who know more than I do about green energy fail to apply that knowledge when it comes to investing. Enthusiastic amateurs are often worse. The typical green stock holdings of a brilliant cleantech engineer are a couple solar stocks, like First Solar (FSLR) and Sunpower (SPWR.) People who will lecture tirelessly on the need to improve the efficiency of buildings before slapping solar on the roof don't walk the walk when it comes to their investment portfolios. Instead, they take whatever portfolio they have, slap on a couple solar companies. They forget all about the efficiency stocks and other, more cost-effective renewable options such as wind, geothermal, and biomass that they would recommend if they were asked about what we needed to decarbonize the economy.
Invest In What You Know, Use What You KnowTo be fair, none of these people are professional investors....
...Financial modeling shows that solar will only be a significant part of the most effective carbon mitigation strategies if prices fall quickly and dramatically. Such cost improvements are possible, but will come with the risk of extreme disruption for the current crop of solar stocks.
Investors swept up in the emotional appeal of solar stocks are providing those of us who pay close attention to the economics of green energy an opportunity to profit at their expense. Taking advantage of the opportunity is not only likely to benefit the investor, it will also help the companies we do invest in raise capital.
Pretty much the raison d'être of Climateer Investing.