Friday, June 27, 2008

Renewable Energy - "Possibly the Biggest Economic Opportunity Ever"

And the Michigan Legislature is going to watch it sail on by.

Granted, both of those statements are a bit strong, but both of them could possibly turn out to be true when all is said and done. Rumors from MIRS had the Senate working on our energy bills yesterday, but with the big rush to get, well, everything done in the next 48 hours, it seems hard to believe that they will be able to pull this off in time, but one can always hope.

So, here is one more push, one more argument of why it's imperative that we act sooner rather than later. Last week, the big money gathered in New York City at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum (REFF)to discuss strategies for investment into renewable energy, everyone recognizing the opportunity in front of them, but looking for direction on where to go next. There are risks for investors, and apparently "Congress' failure to extend the Investment (ITC) and Production Tax Credits (PTC)" has caused capital to shift elsewhere for the short term, and other hesitancy on the part of the major names.

Even in the light of market uncertainty, there is this-

All risks considered, the world's leading investors are recognizing that a transition to a clean energy economy is the single biggest economic opportunity of the 21st century — and possibly the biggest economic opportunity ever. The U.S. represents one of the largest renewable energy markets, so merchant bankers, private equity firms and venture capitalists are all educating themselves about how to navigate this immature yet promising marketplace and make the right decisions to drive the industry forward. REFF is an event designed to give financiers the tools to invest in this increasingly complicated space.

Investors are concerned that this is a repeat of the 70s oil shock, and that demand will drop if oil prices drop and we all get comfy again and continue to ignore the reality of the dangers of relying on fossil fuel use. Not the case this time around, say organizers-

The political and economic landscape is now perfect for strong, sustainable industry growth: The scientific debate over climate change is over; the price of oil will probably not fall dramatically, if it falls at all; developing countries like China and India are emerging as major energy consumers, increasing the demand for all types of energy; and despite the short-term political stalemate in Washington, there is bipartisan recognition that renewable energy is an economic driver and a necessary part of national security strategy.

“There are so many factors converging at once. It really is a perfect storm,” said David Sandalow, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. “I just don't see this as another repeat of what happened in the 70's. This is the real thing.”

Just yesterday, a new report was released that highlights the concern; fossil fuel use/energy demand is expected to jump 50% in the next two decades due to increased consumption from emerging economies such as China and India. They are predicting $186 for a barrel of oil by 2030; that seems a bit low in light of recent price spikes, but too hard to tell this far out. China is expected to rely on nukes and coal for its electrical needs - and imagine what that will do to global warming if emission caps are not put in place. For the sake of the planet, we better pray that fossil fuel use is altered substantially in the coming years.

That is just one reason that investors are recognizing that renewables will be the way to go, and the industry is currently laying the foundation to bring more alternatives to market.

As the renewable energy industry works to put meaningful amounts of capacity online, the market remains very volatile for investors, especially in the U.S. However, the industry is finally approaching the form that it will eventually take on a larger scale, making the market a bit more clear for investors, said Michael Liebreich, CEO of New Energy Finance.

“We went through a number of years where people were waking up to renewable energy and energy efficiency, but they didn't know quite what that meant in terms of how they would integrate into the energy infrastructure,” Liebreich said. “We're now starting to get more clarity on how that will work.”

Liebreich and others point to the growing size of installations, increased consolidation of the industry and refined promotion policies as the factors creating this clarity. As a result of this continued “shake out,” the ability of firms to see how and where to invest their capital is continually improving.

What does all this mean? Jobs. Lots and lots of jobs as this emerging technology takes hold across the country and across the globe. Where the investment capital goes, the jobs will follow - and major investors across the country are lining up to be in the "right place at the right time".

The only question left is - will they come to Michigan? That's up to the people in Lansing. We can start down this road right now and position ourselves to be in the right place at the right time when the money people come calling, or we can ignore the writing on the wall and watch this golden opportunity slip through our grasp.

Your choice lawmakers. History awaits.