Viewpoints

4 sustainable investing myths, debunked

4 sustainable investing myths, debunked

(GreenBiz) Enthusiasm for sustainable investing is surging. Already, more than $8.7 trillion (PDF) of investment capital is managed using environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in U.S. markets alone, according to the U.S. SIF Foundation. That’s a 184 percent increase since 2010. This pot of money increasingly includes investments in green infrastructure, renewable energy, affordable housing and more, as well as investments that more holistically integrate broad ESG factors.

However, amid this hype, a certain amount of confusion , doubt and outright skepticism endures. WRI’s new paper, “Navigating the Sustainable Investment Landscape,” is based on interviews with 115 investment professionals — including asset owners with $1.26 trillion under management — and found that the prospects for sustainable investing are strong and overcoming key roadblocks will help the market reach a tipping point.

Getting real with renewable energy

(Vermont Digger) Many people believe that 100 percent of our electricity can come from renewable energy. Such a goal is not only unachievable, it also diverts action from realistic strategies that will benefit the environment and our energy future.

Electric utilities in Vermont try hard to present an image of being green and providing clean energy. But since the electricity that we use is part of a large interconnected system, it is better to think regionally instead of locally. Vermont is connected to the New England electric grid operated by ISO New England. It is this regional electricity grid that really matters when examining the environmental impact of the electricity that we use.

Majority of Americans Want Renewable Energy, Not Fossils

Majority of Americans Want Renewable Energy, Not Fossils

(Sustainable Business) As Trump prepares to unleash a new era of fossil fuels and take a hard turn away from renewable energy, a Pew Research Center poll shows that’s not what Americans want. A strong majority of 65% want the US to focus on renewable energy. Only 27% say fossil fuels should be the priority.

The divide remains stark between parties, however, with 81% of Democrats and 45% of Republicans preferring renewables. There’s also a generational difference: 73% of people under 49 years-old want renewables over fossils, compared with 50% for people over 50. Two other polls conducted after the election, show that Americans’ concern about climate change is at the highest levels since 2008. 64% are either “very worried” or “somewhat worried”, up from 57% in 2015.

Will California Reach Its 50% Clean Energy Goal? No Problem

Will California Reach Its 50% Clean Energy Goal? No Problem

But managing so much clean energy may be difficult. California will easily meet its goal of having half of its electricity come from clean energy by 2030, a group of energy entrepreneurs and the head of one of the state’s largest utilities agreed at Fortune’s Brainstorm E conference on Monday.

PG&E’s CEO Tony Earley said that the company had already reached a milestone earlier this year of getting 30% of its electricity from clean energy sources. Building on that landmark, PG&E already has clean energy projects lined up that will help it deliver half of its electricity from clean energy, like solar and wind, within less than 15 years, said Earley.

“We can get there,” he confidently predicted.

How to Fix Solar Power’s Inequality Problem

How to Fix Solar Power's Inequality Problem

(CityLab) Clean energy has an inequality problem.

It’s not unique to this sector—cutting-edge technologies tend to be expensive and time-consuming to adopt, keeping themout of reach for disadvantaged communities initially. That’s especially true for rooftop solar panels, which require users to owna roof that receives adequate sunlight. For low-income families, especially those who rent or live in multi-family buildings, the chance to cut their electricity bill by producing their own energy just isn’t feasible.

Consistent Policy Required For Renewables

Clean Energy: Consistent Policy Required For Renewables

(Forbes) Nevada was once known as the darling of the solar industry, and over the years the state fostered pro-growth approaches for clean energy efforts. All of that has changed along with the ongoing struggle between the State’s regulator, and both the utility and solar industries. The case in Nevada clearly illustrates the need for regulatory certainty in the field of public policy.

More on this issue in a moment, but first it’s important to note that last year the global solar industry prospered. According to data released by Greentech Media (GTM) Research the industry experienced a 34 percent increase in Photovoltaic (PV) systems installation and 59 gigawatts of new capacity coming online within just one year. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), 40 percent of all new electric generating capacity in 2015 in America was supplied by the solar industry, while another 20,000 megawatts of additional solar capacity is expected to infiltrate the grid within the next two years.

Energy Wars of Attrition

Energy Wars of Attrition

(Huffington Post) The Irony of Oil Abundance.

Three and a half years ago, the International Energy Agency (IEA) triggered headlines around the world by predicting that the United States would overtake Saudi Arabia to become the world’s leading oil producer by 2020 and, together with Canada, would become a net exporter of oil around 2030. Overnight, a new strain of American energy triumphalism appeared and experts began speaking of “ Saudi America ,” a reinvigorated U.S.A. animated by copious streams of oil and natural gas, much of it obtained through the then-pioneering technique of hydro-fracking. “This is a real energy revolution,” the Wall Street Journal crowed in an editorial heralding the IEA pronouncement.

Bernanke: the relationship between stocks and oil prices

The relationship between stocks and oil prices

(Brookings) The past decade has been a roller coaster for oil prices, one that market participants have probably not much enjoyed riding (Figure 1). The period includes much volatility and two sharp crashes. One crash, in 2008, was associated with the financial crisis and the Great Recession. The second may still be going on: Oil prices have fallen from over $100 per barrel in mid-2014 to around $30 per barrel recently.

Stock prices have also been falling recently, and these moves have generally followed the course of oil prices, a development much commented on by the financial press (for example, see here and here ). On the surface, the tendency for stocks to fall along with oil prices is surprising. The usual presumption is that a decline in oil prices is good news for the economy, at least for net oil importers like the United States and China.

What’s Wrong With Bernanke’s ‘Relationship Between Stocks And Oil Prices’

(Seeking Alpha) The financial press has been commenting on recent correlation of stock prices to oil prices. As a recent Wall Street Journal article put it, “Oil and stock markets have moved in lockstep this year, a rare coupling that highlights fears about global economic growth.”

Ben Bernanke published an article Friday on his blog at Brookings, “The relationship between stocks and oil prices.” He began by stating we should expect a negative relationship between stocks and oil prices because decreasing oil prices are a benefit to the U.S. economy and vice-versa.

But, in fact, there has been a positive empirical relationship between stocks and oil prices. He provides 5 ½ years of data that show the correlation is positive, on average, with a correlation of 39%.He concludes that there are two reasons for the positive relationship.

Have we reached the tipping point for investing in renewable energy?

Have we reached the tipping point for investing in renewable energy?

(The Guardian) Divestment – the decision to voluntarily reduce one’s fossil fuel investments – has been a hot button topic of discussion since 2011, when university students began calling on their institutions to remove fossil fuels from their portfolios. Divestment arguments have often focused on the morality of investments , but the economic value of divestment has recently become hard to ignore.

Suddenly, the Solar Boom Is Starting to Look like a Bubble

(MIT Technology Review) By all accounts, 2016 should be a great year for solar power providers. In December, Congress extended the federal investment tax credit for solar installations through 2022, convincing analysts to project strong growth for the solar industry in coming years. Prices for solar panels continue to decline, even as emissions reduction targets reached under the Paris climate accord drive governments to seek more power from renewable energy sources. Several recent reports have shown that the cost of solar is often comparable or nearly comparable to the average price of power on the utility grid, a threshold known as grid parity.

Are We Doomed to Slow Growth?

Are We Doomed to Slow Growth?

(NY Times) One day in 1980, when I was 10, I sat in my great-grandmother’s living room and poured out questions about what life was like for her as a girl in Belarus. At 90, she was still sharp and could answer my questions. But she didn’t betray any of the emotion I hoped for.

Born in 1890, in a tiny village powered by horses and the sun in a manner hardly changed from the time of ancient Rome, she grew up to witness the invention of the airplane and the adoption of electricity and the telephone. I wanted her to join me in marveling at this series of world-changing transformations, which I knew were beyond anything her girlhood self could have imagined.

Samuelson: The crash of 2016?

The crash of 2016?

(Washington Post) You cannot understand the vulnerable state of the U.S. and global economies — and nervous stock markets — without coming to grips with the crash of “emerging-market” countries. Led by China, these are middle-income countries that, along with the poorest countries, account for 85 percent of the world’s population and 60 percent of the global economy, according to Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund.

Imagining a World Without Growth

Imagining a World Without Growth

(NY Times) Could the world order survive without growing?

It’s hard to imagine now, but humanity made do with little or no economic growth for thousands of years. In Byzantium and Egypt, income per capita at the end of the first millennium was lower than at the dawn of the Christian Era. Much of Europe experienced no growth at all in the 500 years that preceded the Industrial Revolution.

If There Is a Recession in 2016, This Is How It Will Happen

If There Is a Recession in 2016, This Is How It Will Happen

(NY Times) More and more news headlines and stock market analysts’ reports have started predicting , or at least insinuating , that a recession could be near in the United States.

I’ve been skeptical; the economy may not be great, but I’ve had a hard time envisioning how economic turmoil in countries like China and Brazil and supercheap oil could somehow combine to drag down the mighty United States economy. That’s why my October article on the economic outlook ended not with any bold conclusion, but with the “shruggie” emoticon.

Report: Energy Storage Has Solid Future

World Energy Council Report: Energy Storage Has Solid Future

(CleanTecnica) Renewable energy storage endeavors appear to be highly attractive business models worldwide for the year 2016.

A report from the World Energy Council states worldwide solar energy storage platforms will become more competitive as new battery technologies drive prices down. On the wind storage front, technical advances in areas such as composite materials appears to enable the power generated by wind turbines to increase. With the cost of capturing and storing wind and solar energy coming down, energy storage deployment across the world will increase, finds the report.

More investment: the one thing we still need in order to get to a low-carbon economy

The one thing we still need in order to get to a low-carbon economy

(ensia.com) The global clean energy industry has plenty of reasons to feel good these days.

First, there was last month’s historic COP 21 Paris climate agreement , forged by 195 countries , which eclipsed most people’s expectations in its breadth and scope toward achieving a low-carbon economy. Then, the U.S. Congress approved a five-year extension of wind and solar federal tax credits — a step that Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates will spur an additional US$73 billion in investment and nearly 40,000 megawatts of new wind and solar projects by 2020.

How to Make Sense of Plummeting Global Markets

How to Make Sense of Plummeting Global Markets

(NY Times) If you look only at the global economy, and what leading forecasters think it will do in 2016, things look to be in a reasonably solid state. The world economy will grow 3.4 percent this year, economists at the International Monetary Fund projected this week , up from 3.1 percent in 2015. Private sector forecasters mostly have similar expectations.

If you look only at global financial markets , it’s Ack! Run for the hills! The sky is falling!

Boom or Gloom?

Boom or Gloom?

(NY Times) Whether the winner of the 2016 presidential election emphasizes optimism or pessimism, he or she will face some sobering economic developments.

The first is the acceleration of corporate mergers. Why does this phenomenon matter? As Robert Litan, the chief economic adviser to Patent Properties Inc., explained last summer in the Wall Street Journal, it’s important because when big companies swallow up others, it signals that acquiring companies have essentially outsourced their ideas rather than growing internally.

Why you should worry about cheap oil

Why you should worry about cheap oil

(CNN) Millions of Americans are laughing their way to the gas station. But should they be?

Sure, the stunning crash in oil prices below $30 a barrel seems great for consumers because it’s driven gas at the pump below $2 a gallon . And the thinking is that it should help boost the U.S. economy, with people spending their gas savings.

But cheap oil is also causing mayhem in global stock markets . The Dow is off to its worst start to a year ever. The financial headlines at the start of 2016 are downright scary. With that backdrop, any euphoria over low oil prices is questionable. Here’s why:

Saudi Arabia Will Be the Big Loser from the Plunge In Oil Prices

Saudi Arabia Will Be the Big Loser from the Plunge In Oil Prices

(Time) The country relies on oil for about 80% of budget revenue.

Oil prices stand at the intersection of geopolitics and the global economy. When prices fall as far and as fast as they have over the past two years–dropping some $85 a barrel–shock waves are felt around the world.

Vladimir Putin’s outsize personality means that Russia could be highly vulnerable to low oil prices. But while the country’s economy will certainly take a hit, the impact will be greater in the Middle East, especially in an anxious and isolated Saudi Arabia.

Cheap Oil Is Good for Consumers, So Why Is It Slamming Stocks?

Cheap Oil Is Good for Consumers, So Why Is It Slamming Stocks?

(NBC) Wall Street is drowning in oil.

Stocks are having their worst start to a year in history in part because of a rapid plunge in the price of oil. The price of crude is down 28 percent this year already, which in turn has dragged down energy company shares in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index by 13 percent, which has helped pull the overall index down 9 percent.

This even though low oil prices — and the cheap prices for gasoline and other fuels that result — are wonderful for consumers and many companies.

Want People to Embrace Efficiency Technology? Make It Sexy

Want People to Embrace Efficiency Technology? Make It Sexy

(Huffington Post) Why don’t energy efficiency technologies and strategies get people as excited as a Tesla roadster? On the face of it, duh. It’s the brains of it that make this a headscratcher.

An American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranked the U.S. among the least energy efficient of the world’s largest economies–13th out of 16–in its most recent international scorecard.

The secret to making New York City’s old homes energy-efficient

(Crain’s New York ) Most neighborhoods in New York City have a characteristic housing type—brownstones in Park Slope and Bedford-Stuyvesant, semi-attached two-family bricks in Ridgewood, single-family wood-frames in Flatbush. When neighborhoods were originally developed, a builder would buy blocks of land and repeat the same construction over and over.

This repetition helps define an area and adds to the beauty of the city. But it also presents an opportunity to overcome one of today’s most pressing energy challenges.

Why cheap oil is not an economic blessing

Why cheap oil is not an economic blessing

(Washington Post) There are two different flavors of “supply side” economics. One that dates to President Ronald Reagan argues that if you cut taxes on the wealthy, they’ll work harder and invest more of their larger after-tax income. The benefits will “trickle down” to both the unwashed masses and to the Treasury.