RE Finance Forum Woos Wall Street

— woo — (v, to woo) to try to please in order to gain something, especially acceptance, fame or approval. And woo they did. Renewable energy industry and business leaders gathered in full force in New York City this week to encourage further and stronger investment from more than 600 financiers from 21 countries who met at the third annual “Renewable Energy Finance Forum – Wall Street.”

Notables also pitching in to drive home both the importance and broad impact on energy, jobs and security were Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell and the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alexander “Andy” Karsner. While Biofuels, and particularly investments and capacity building for ethanol production, are currently hot investments with an estimated 40 new manufacturing facilities planned for the U.S., Wind power and Solar energy were also highlighted at the conference by industry specialists. Although there were cautions of over-building for production, ethanol is the market’s current answer to high fuel prices and stretching oil supplies from foreign sources. Today’s investments in ethanol are estimated to be USD$1.5 billion in institutional debt and USD$5 billion in public equity. There was zero investment in this sector in 2004, according to Jefferies Courtney Tuttle, a presenter for the Biofuels Finance session. In both the Solar and Wind finance sessions, presenters once again agreed that consistent U.S. policy for production tax credits and incentive supports are important, if not crucial, to balance our nation’s long-term energy supply, curtail global warming and create new profitable markets for both. Solar and Wind market growth is expected to continue at a brisk 25% to 30% next year, although once again threats from expiring federal incentives could dampen such growth in 2008 unless progress is made on extending incentives. Manufacturing capacity constraints for Wind in the form of finished turbines and high costs of steel, and for Solar, limited silicon supply, are likely to influence near term investment. Other renewable energy options highlighted during the conference that have garnered some investment: Imperium Renewables touted its biodiesel as a sound environmental and profitable biofuel manufacturer, and Konarka challenged investors to consider its non-silicon, carbon-based photovoltaic (PV) process as a “disruptive” technology without the raw silicon constraints and the high labor costs associated with silicon-based PV. In 2006, the overall renewable energy sector should see a 25% increase in investment to USD $60 billion, up from USD $48 billion. For a complete rundown on the numbers, refer to ACORE’s release on this site at the link below. “We are calling on investors to show leadership — while taking prudent risks,” said Governor Rendell. “We can do it.” Rendell, later chastising President Bush in a follow-up news conference for lack of leadership on energy issues, predicted that energy, and specifically renewable energy, would likely be a top national political issue this year and in the 2008 presidential election year. “It (energy) needs to become a federal priority. It’s a vital priority that affects all of us, and transcends traditional politics.” Secretary Karsner took exception to Rendell’s remarks — “He obviously hasn’t been listening to the President,” said Karsner. “Nothing has been of a higher priority. It’s a legacy and wartime issue.” The event is presented by the British-based EuroMoney Energy Events and Washington, DC-based American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE).
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