Tom Konrad's Comments

April 06, 2014

Our Investments Matter

PJ, Patrick,
Neither of you seem to be addressing the subject of the article, and instead focus on the profitability of investing in renewables. Fine, I agree such investments are profitable, but I disagree that that is the only important question. Investing in Tobacco can be profitable, too, but I'm not going to do it.

In particular, PJ, I strongly disagree with your basic premise: That the goal of investing is to generate return.

An investor owns his or her money, therefore the goal of investing is whatever that investor says it is.

Why is investing any different from providing money to an acquaintance to start a company? If you were considering loaning John money for a business venture, would you limit your inquiries to the likely returns and safety of your money, or would you also want to know if he was torturing puppies for profit?

April 07, 2014

Our Investments Matter

Patrick,
That is much more to the point I was talking about... we should consider both the financial and moral aspects of our investments. The dangers of pollution you cite are among those moral aspects.

For myself, environmental considerations are a first screen. If I don't like the environmental attributes of a company, I won't spend my time trying to decide if that company is a good investment. There are more than enough environmentally sound opportunities (many good, many bad from a financial standpoint) for me to analyze.

March 15, 2014

How Geothermal Heat Pumps Can Soar Like Solar

Susan,
Those are my ASHPs that are shown... I did not actually have to go searching to find an example of improper installation. It should not be shame on me for taking a photo- it should be shame on my contractor for not planning for snow.
Just as not all contractors install geothermal correctly, the same goes for ASHPs.

I looked at the whole question of GHPs vs. ASHPs in more depth in this article: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2014/02/are-air-source-heat-pumps-a-threat-to-geothermal-heat-pump-suppliers

March 15, 2014

How Geothermal Heat Pumps Can Soar Like Solar

Richard,
Yes, GHPs use electricity, but they displace heat from natural gas, oil, or resistance electric heat. When they are replacing resistance heat, they reduce the use of fossil fuels by simply using less.

When they displace natural gas heat, we have to do some calculations. A good natural gas combined cycle plant can achieve up to 60% efficiency, which the heat pump then converts back into heat with multiplier (COP) of 2.5 to 4, giving a net heat produced in the home of 1.5 to 2.4 for every unit of natural gas heat energy burned at the gas plant. If that gas were directly used to heat the home, you would get less than 100% efficiency (possibly much less), so in this case the use of fossil fuels is reduced by at least half.

The calculations are similar if oil is used to heat the home or coal to produce the electricity. If some of the electricity is generated by renewables or nuclear, the overall fossil fuel use is even lower.

In my own case, I buy 100% green electricity, and my heat pumps are reducing the use of my oil fired boiler, so fossil fuel consumption is greatly reduced.

March 15, 2014

How Geothermal Heat Pumps Can Soar Like Solar

John,
From my own personal experience, Susan's numbers for installation cost of GHPs are very high. I got quotes for both, and I was able to get a GHP *and* ductwork installed in my 1930 home for $30,000 before subsidies. My ASHPs cost $15500 before subsidies. The decision of which to use was actually not an easy one, and I would have gone with the GHP if I had been confident I'd be living in the home more than 5 years.

On the other hand, your example of the solar decalthalon homes is not fair- these have to be mobile, so I don't know how *any* of them would be able to use a GHP, and they are tested in DC's fairly mild climate.

March 18, 2014

Power REIT's Preferred Stock Offering: A Hedge That Pays 7.75%

DoggyDog,
Yes, they would lower your cost basis, and that would make them tax deferred if you sell or they are redeemed. But they will be taxed at the lower long term capital gains rate.

I think you underestimate the chance of early redemption if PW loses its case... if so, it's not going to have a ton of spare cash. Enough to pay dividends yes, but not millions of $ to spare to redeem the preferred, especially given the company's agressive expansion plans. If it wins, that's when I might expect a redemption, because there should be a very significant cash inflow.

January 11, 2013

Mosaic Plants Crowdfunding Flag for Solar Projects

Jim,
Just as an FYI, the definition of an "accredited investor" is not Mosaic's - it's the SEC's.

October 23, 2012

Solar REITs: A Better Way to Invest in Solar

John Street- the REIT structure will not directly help with the tax equity shortage, but it might provide enough low cost capital that solar developments would be economic without tax equity. This would have the added advantage of easing solar off its reliance on the ITC.

October 23, 2012

Solar REITs: A Better Way to Invest in Solar

Dave Fisher- In this election, we have a very sharp contrast between candidates in terms of their stated policies on climate change and energy. Romney intends to do nothing about climate change and reverse much of what Obama has done because he considers it 'too expensive.' Obama will continue making incremental progress to support energy efficiency and renewable energy. While it would be nice if we could expect more than continued incrementalism from Obama, anything more will be ruled out by opposition in Congress, and it's a heck of a lot better than going into reverse. For me, climate change is the most important issue we face, so the choice is clear. I also think Obama will be better for the economy and the stock market, because the massive spending cuts Romney plans would throw the country back into recession.

October 13, 2012

The Chinese Key to Electric Vehicle Adoption

Mark-
I guess that means that you think Zipcar's model does not make sense, either? Generation Ys are increasingly not owning cars... you might consider that car ownership may have been right for older generations, but not necessarily for the future. Glad you love your Volts, though, they are wonderful cars.... just not appropriate for the Chinese middle class.

October 13, 2012

The Chinese Key to Electric Vehicle Adoption

Kandi vehicles are also for sale to the public, there is no 'prevention of ownership.' I don't dismiss the Volt because of low sales numbers so far... I dismiss them because they are not a cost effective form of transportation. They should do fine in the less price sensitive segments of the market, but battery technology and gas prices are not yet to the point where EVs can compete in price-sensitive parts of the auto market when compared to traditional hybrid technology. I hope that economic problem will be overcome soon, and full size EVs like the Leaf and Volt will become mass market vehicles in the US on both rental and ownership models. Until then, I thank people like you for subsidizing the technology's development.

Tom Konrad

Tom Konrad

Tom Konrad is a private money manager and freelance writer focused on Peak Oil and Climate Change as investment themes. He manages portfolios for individual clients and am co-manager of the JPS Green Economy Fund (http://jpsgreeneconomyfund.com),...

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