torsdag 31 maj 2007

Difference between the renewable energy boom and the dot-com bubble

Joel Makower at the Environmental Economics & Sustainable Development blog provides some important points about why the renewable energy boom is persistent, and not yet another dot-com bubble. The most important point he makes is:

1. The problems aren't getting any better. This is fairly obvious, especially if you've seen The Movie. The environmental movement, it's been said, is rapidly morphing into the climate movement, and there's a parallel shift taking place on the business side. The motivations may be different -- for activists, climate has become a rallying cry that gives disparate groups a singular focus; for companies, it's about the need to squeeze efficiency out of every operational nook and cranny while reducing risk and enhancing image -- but the upshot is the same: Until the climate problem is under control, it will be Job One, environmentally speaking, inside most companies. And as concern, regulation, and market-based mechanisms to address climate change ramp up, this will be a key business focus for a long, long time.

Although I do not entirely agree on the statement that problems aren't getting better (at least I believe they are become worse at a decreasing speed), the essence is important: there is a real and big problem to counter. Companies in the renewable energy and cleantech sectors are speculated at higher and higher values, but if they do provide a solution to the underlying problems, they deserve it.

Another point, that wasn't made by Makower, is the experience learnt by investors from the dot-com bubble. This time investors will investigate the companies scrupulously before investing, and companies will need to show net profit. The marginal influx of capital from gold-digging amateurs will not affect this. Companies will not become stock market stars only by claiming that they provide "cleantech solutions" or that they work with "sustainable fuels"

One may suggest that the renewables boom and the bubble of the late 90's have one thing in common: the element of uncertainty. Speculations in companies in the IT era where often made because of unknown future revenues, based on a large customer base. Investors wanted to jump on a train without knowing the final destination, only that the general direction felt right. There are two general aspects of uncertainty regarding the renewable energy sector: the extent and effects of climate change as well as the policys implemented to counter it. However, these elements are not significant for the development of the renewable energy sector as whole. The uncertainty regarding the effects of climate change does not refer to the existence of climate change, but rather details; will the damage on the global economy be 1% or 10% of global GDP? Further on, although the political development may vary, the general direction is clear. Certain types of renewable energy will most likely fall in political disfavour with time, like corn-based ethanol. Depending on how subsidies and taxes are designed, it will be easier to invest in certain types of energy because difference in capital and operational costs. It is clear however, that the sector as whole will benefit.

1 kommentar:

daniel sa...

Great comparison! I hadn't thought of that yet. I found an article that will help open your eyes also. Why Ethanol Cannot Live Up to all the “Perfect” Energy-Solution Hype . This WILL open your eyes...Cheers!