Environment Forum

Solar power mounts in Canada

canadaflag Solar power is heating up in the northern reaches of  Canada, a country not exactly known for its sunny rays and warm weather.

The industry has seen a heap of news from the region this week. US. solar heavyweight First Solar and Canadian pipeline company Enbridge announced that they are quadrupling the size of a solar farm in Ontario.

That’s on top of Chinese solar company Canadian Solar’s plans for a new $23 million plant in the province and a supply deal for Suntech in Ontario, too.

Why Canada and solar?

As Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov pointed out, having optimal solar patterns is not as important for the economics of a project than the right set of incentives.

(Case in point: Germany is the world’s top solar market, not a ranking it won by its weather.)

Cloudy days for green stocks

The federal stimulus bill hasn’t been a ticket to prosperity for clean energy investors.According to Environment America, a federation of state-based, citizen-funded environmental advocacy organizations, over 4 percent of the $787 billion dollar stimulus package passed in February was ear-marked for clean energy projects.Yet the Reuters Business of Green Index, a basket of 14 green stocks, has fared poorly over the last three months, down over 20 percent against the S&P 500 Index.Why isn’t the stimulus bill, which appears to be helping many stocks, not having the desired effect in the greentech and clean energy sectors?”What happens in Washington for the time being is nowhere near as relevant as you might think,” said Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov.He notes that green stocks are heavily dependent on the solar industry, 90 percent of which is outside the United States:”Even though there is a large array of clean tech stocks to invest in, the most attractive green stocks and the certainly the largest ones are in the solar stage. And solar has been doing quite poorly because there is quite simply an overcapacity in the global solar industry.”That has put pressure on prices, margins and earnings. Not surprisingly, solar stocks have fared poorly.Suntech Power Holdings, one of the 14 green companies selected by Reuters, had lost 13 percent of it’s value in August when it reported second quarter earnings. Shares of China’s Yingli Green Energy and U.S. panel maker SunPower Corp were down about 17 percent, and First Solar‘s stock was down nearly 15 percent in the same period.Not all of the news is cloudy, but Molchanov says it’s not time to put away the umbrella just yet.”The good news is that sentiment has gotten so negative that it probably doesn’t take much for it to start improving and expectations for earnings are generally pretty low. So that’s helping, but the overcapacity in the market is not going away in the foreseeable future.”

Introducing the Reuters Global Green Portfolio

As part of Reuters new Green Business section, we have chosen a diverse group of companies to serve as a proxy for the emerging green technology sector. Over the coming months we’ll be discussing each of them at length, and rebalancing our portfolio to reflect trends in the industry.

Click here to see our portfolio in action. You can track our performance against benchmarks, comment on our choices, and create a portfolio of your own.

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Comverge, Inc is one of the leading demand-response companies, known for their role in limiting electricity use during peak demand, employing technology to manage large companies’ power usage and control their costs. Their software can automatically adjust an air conditioner’s temperature or turn off a swimming pool pump when power supplies are tight, reducing prices for suppliers and end users by lowering end user demand at peak times.

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