Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fossil Fuel Aberration

Asked to write a history of renewable energy, most investors would probably begin with a story of ethanol in the 1940s or solar cells in the 1950s.  That is only modern renewable power sources.  Truth be told, energy as humans know it has always been renewable.  Before the wider exploitation of coal beginning in the 1700s and other fossil fuels in the early 1800s, all energy sources were renewable.  There were water powered grain mills, wind powered water pumps, wood fires for heating and cooking, and animal power for transportation and agriculture.  In the greater scheme of things renewable energy has been the norm for tens of thousands of years and fossil fuels are a very short-term aberration with only a few hundred years.
Our current business and political leaders view solar, wind and biofuels as unwelcome intrusions on the established coal and petroleum power structure.  Likely that is because a good share of their wealth or the wealth of their political supporters derives from the sale of fossil fuels and other petrochemical products.  In 2016, out of the total $3.15 billion spent on lobbyists, $119.2 million was spent on lobbyists working for the oil and gas industry.  Interestingly, a quarter of the oil and gas lobbying effort in the U.S. is funded by just three companies:  Exxon Mobile, $11.8 million; Koch Industries, $9.8 million; and Royal Dutch Shell, $9.0 million. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Renewable Energy 'Comes of Scale'

Renewable energy adoption appears to be gaining momentum. Recent events suggest that solar and wind power technology has reached an inflection point  -  inescapable, irreversible scale.  In the last few weeks three technology giants announced plans for major investments in solar and wind power sources.   

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

New Shape of Vistra Energy

Vistra Energy (VST:  NYSE), an integrated power producer based in Texas, is buying one of its competitors, Dynegy (DYN:  NYSE). Dynegy operates power generation facilities in Texas as well as the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest with a total capacity near 27,000 megawatts.  Vistra will add the Dynegy properties to its own 18,000 megawatt capacity Texas.  The all-stock deal is valued at $1.74 billion and is expected to close mid-2018.  Dynegy shareholders will get 0.652 shares of Vistra Energy for each Dynergy share.  At the time of the deal announcement that was about $13.24 per share.     
What will investors get in Vistra shares once the deal is completed?

Friday, November 03, 2017

Price of Ocean Power

"To me the sea is a continual miracle;
The fishes that swim, the rocks,
the motion of the waves, the ships with men in them.
What stranger miracles are there?"             

Walt Whitman

For Ocean Power Technologies (OPTT:  Nasdaq) the sea is more a utility than Whitman’s source of romantic miracles.  The company has developed a wave turbine to capture the energy in ocean waves and turn it into electrical power.   Last month the company was successful in convincing investors of the merits of its ‘ocean utility’ technology, raising $8.2 million through the sale of common stock.
Branded as the ‘PowerBuoy’, Ocean Power’s product line is headed by its PB3 system that has the capacity to generate up to three kilowatts of peak power.  An onboard power storage system has the capacity to store up to 150 kilowatt hours.  The PB3 is intended for users with remote off-shore installations such as ocean observatories, oil and gas wells, or communications systems.  Currently oil and gas companies or scientific groups rely on a mix of power sources to power remotely located systems, such as batteries, gas generators, solar panels, or fuel cells.