Renewable Energy Getting Cheaper Every Day – What is The Potential Impact For Consumers and Investors?

The best friend of earth of man is the tree.

When we use the tree respectfully and economically,

we have one of the greatest resources on the earth.

– Frank Lloyd Wright

Some say we’ve arrived at the critical junction where fossil fuels – the old gunslinger, and alternative energy, the sleek new upstart, meet for a winner take all shootout.  But in fact, if we are honest, it’s not really like that – both are needed at this time to satisfy global demand. But the trend can’t be ignored and the related investment opportunities are becoming more clear.  

What makes it more competitive is the dramatic reduction in the cost of alternative solutions, as well as the promise of new tax incentives. Research from Our World Data shows that the cost of renewables has drastically fallen from 2010 by over 80% with offshore wind coming on as one of the strongest difference makers. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) renewables are now undercutting fossil fuels as the world’s cheapest source of energy.

This issue of the Socially Inspired Investor Digest and Podcast examines the progress made in the new economics of sustainable energy.  We think you’ll enjoy hearing from our PODCAST guest Peter Fusaro a well-regarded expert in the field.  We also thank our SPOTLIGHT contributors who share their views on the topic.

Enjoy this issue.

A New Era in Company Reporting – What Does it Mean?

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution

Take a bow for the new revolution

Smile and grin at the change all around

Pick up my guitar and play

Just like yesterday

Then I’ll get on my knees and pray

We don’t get fooled again

– Song by The Who. “Won’t get fooled again” from the album Who’s Next 8/71

Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware)

A new indicator that ESG has matriculated into the mainstream investment universe is the seeming endless, perhaps counterintuitive, range of companies who suddenly proclaim they have now drunk the Kool-Aid and are now or soon to be, cleaner, fairer, and overall committed to being good citizens of the sustainable world – if not potentially our saviors.

But beware the ESG industrial complex. Is there a watchdog? And if so, why should we believe them?

This edition the Socially Inspired Investor Digest/Podcast attempts to touch on the very complicated and evolving subject of ESG ratings.  Without the right data you, the investor, really are challenged to make informed decisions on which investment options most closely align with your values. 

Will we ever get to the point where respected rating agencies give us a meaningful measure of how a company meets a generally accepted ESG standards?  Respectfully – that’s a hard one to absorb. It’s probably not even possible as much of it may be subjective. But some guidance is better than no guidance. Recently the SEC proposed significant criteria for companies to include relating to their disclosure on environmental impact and risks associated with them.

Ratings services nevertheless decided it’s worth their time and capital to develop their own rating systems. And that is actually a very good thing, even if imperfect. Like it or not, that’s part of the deal at this point, and that has to be ok with you. To make it even more bemusing is that most of the input for the data actually comes from the companies themselves.  

So, what are we to make of these rating agencies and the data they use? Is this the cavalry to the rescue? Or a concerted effort to fool us once again?

Our SPOTLIGHT ON question this issue posed to our panel of experts this question:
“It seems more expansive company reporting on sustainability factors creates a better business model – WHY?”

To help us further understand the ratings process we are fortunate to have Tamara Close from Close Group Consulting as Pat O’Neill’s special guest on our very interesting PODCAST

We hope you enjoy this important edition of the SOCIALLY INSPIRED INVESTOR DIGEST/PODCAST.  Since we first published – just as the COVID-19 pandemic began – we have seen tremendous progress being made in the investing community, as we inhabitants strive for a better, more sustainable future.   

Enjoy!

How Investing in Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) Makes a Difference

I can change the world, with my own two hands

Make a better place with my own two hands

Make a kinder place, with my own two hands

– Song by Ben Harper, Diamond on the Inside. 2003

Our new issue focuses on the importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), the extent to which DEI is important for investors – and the potential risks of failing to take it into account when making investment decisions.

Doesn’t it seem like our understanding of the impact of DEI on investing should be further evolved by now? Our contributors within the SPOTLIGHT section of this digest point to a variety of ways that companies benefit from social oriented policies – and examples of some who have not.

They will discuss the impact of how a company treats its employees, its community and the fairness of how it utilizes its capital on its performance. Do DEI considerations affect every aspect of the business – supply chains, product or service strategies, logistics and human resources? Clearly, a Socially Inspired Investor will take DEI into consideration – perhaps as much as other ratios or quantitative factors. We know you will enjoy listening to our PODCAST guest, Lorraine Wilson, Chief Impact Officer and Head of ESG Methodology at Novata, who brings it all together.  

We hope you continue to benefit from the work we do here at the Socially Inspired Investor and our thought leadership. Please feel free to pass us along to others.

Welcome to 2022, everyone!

Wind Power’s role in the renewable energy transition: what are the risks and opportunities?

Where the wind blows babe

You can bet

I’ll be riding high with it

Holding on for my dear life

Just like I always did

– Song by Zac Brown Band, Uncaged 2012

“Nature provides us with a chance to feel the things we cannot perceive with the naked eye” (Literary Devices)

Wind energy offers many advantages explaining why it’s one of the fastest growing energy sources in the world. And here’s a little secret you may not know –

Wind power now accounts for the largest share of renewable energy sources – 8.4% of total US. electricity generation and about 43% of electrical generation from renewable energy in 2020 (U.S. Energy Information Administration).

Wind is free and available and extensive years of development and research have reduced costs and significantly addressed concerns on the impact on wildlife, specifically birds and bats. Offshore solutions and technological advancements claim to realize its potential as the preeminent breakthrough solution. Despite strong demand amid a shift toward renewable power, many companies are having a hard time delivering turbines on budget and on schedule due to shipping delays, rising steel costs and other problems.

This Issue of the Socially Inspired Digest and Podcast – the 3rd episode of our 2nd season- delves into how wind energy is adapting to its new leadership role and what we can expect in the future.

Our Podcast this issue features Steven Pugh, Partner Hermes Infrastructure, a leader in renewable energy development in the UK. We also hear from our panel of experts in our Spotlight section who tackle the question:

Wind power’s role in the renewable energy transition: What are the risks and opportunities?

World attention has never been more focused and aligned to meet the environmental fight of our lives. The recent COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland underscores the world’s readiness to invest where necessary. More reason to be inspired.

Our mission at the Socially Inspired Investor is to keep you informed so you can not only achieve your investment goals but also to do it while aligning with your personal values. Please pass along this link sociallyinspiredinvestor.com to others whom you think will be interested and benefit from our Digest and Podcast.

We hope you enjoy this important issue.

It’s all about Water

Someone told me long ago

There’s a calm before the storm

I know, it’s been comin’ for some time

When it’s over, so they say

It’ll rain a sunny day

I know shinin’ down like water

– I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain?”
Creedence Clearwater Revival

Welcome to the next issue of our Digest and Season 2, Episode 2 of our companion PODCAST entitled: It’s All About The Water.

As the movement toward repairing the earth makes headway, we are inspired to believe that serious focus and real progress is underway. The spotlight, at least lately, seems though more likely to focus on carbon reduction and climate change – clearly critical. But clean water for drinking, farming, electricity and industry is also a growing concern around the world. So, what does the future hold, and what about investment opportunities and risks when it comes to water?

Betsy Moszeter, Chief Operating Officer of Green Alpha Advisors, cites a Fidelity paper a few years back entitled: Water, Structural Demand Growth Creates Investing Opportunities. Recognizing, as they say, that “fully one in six gallons of all the fresh water we produce is wasted through old leaky deteriorating infrastructure”, there is much to do. Water is fundamental, not just to the health of the Earths’ ecosystem but also to the health of global economic activity. Unlike oil, there are no alternative sources.

According to The American Society of Civil Engineers in their 2020 report entitled: The Economic Benefits of Investing in Water Infrastructure, “without adequate investment in water systems, people could see higher incidences of illness, hospitalizations, and lost working days… under current investment levels, the nation will spend $1.067 trillion on water infrastructure over the next 20 years”, still perhaps a third of what’s needed, but a significant start.

We hope you find this issue enlightening and educational. We enjoy producing this educational series. Our mission is to make socially inspired and ESG investing more consumer friendly.

Thanks for your interest and please feel free to pass us along to others.

It’s Electric – A Move To Electric Mobility

The best is yet to come, and won’t that be fine?

You think you’ve seen the sun, but you ain’t seen it shine.

– Frank Sinatra

We begin the 2nd season of The Socially Inspired Investor by taking a deeper dive into the topic of Electric Mobility a.k.a. “The EV” movement. GM has announced that they will offer over 30 electrics by 2025 while publicly and loudly charting a path to an all-electric future. Clearly, Tesla has a huge lead but waking a giant rarely comes without consequence. Even Jaguar announced it will go 100% electric by 2025. Mercedes-Benz will shift its focus entirely to electric vehicles in 2025 and be prepared to sell nothing but electric cars by 2030.

As giddy as investors have been about EV, we are far from clear about how it will all develop. Experts tell us that gas combustible driven cars will still be the norm for the foreseeable future. Jeremy McCool, Founder and CEO of HEVO Power, is our featured guest on our PODCAST discussing the latest on the industry including their development of wireless EV charging.

But it’s not all roses. In our SPOTLIGHT ON section, we ask our experts to speak to the challenges and investments opportunities we face as we move toward mobility. Their observations were very insightful.

Despite the excitement, it appears the EV market currently faces epic supply chain disruptions – most notably a semiconductor chip shortage and the challenges of long charging times – especially during extended trips.  And then there is the scarcity of many of the raw materials found in the batteries that these vehicles use.

In California 20% of purchasers of EV vehicles actually revert to gas, according to a study by researchers at the University of California Davis (www.thehill.com).

Even tires will require innovation. The average EV vehicle can weigh almost twice as much as its older siblings (www.thehill.com). Companies like MICHELIN® see this as a unique opportunity to build market share and we investors should take note. On April 1, the MICHELIN® pilot® product line was launched, taking into account the higher weight characteristics associated with electric sports cars.

Yes, we are in the very early stages.

But yet we are very inspired about all the prospects that electric mobility can bring. Along the journey, we expect to find many good investment opportunities. With so much to be settled, the final story may be a long time coming.  But in the investment world, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The market adage “buy the rumor, sell the news” should inform the investor when it comes to how to “play” the EV category.

Welcome back! We have a great new season planned. If you haven’t already done so, please subscribe at www.sociallyinspiredinvestor.com to receive notices of new issues and feel free to invite others.

A Year Like No Other – Our thoughts

For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf,

And the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

Rudyard Kipling – Jungle Book

A year like no other, indeed

When we first published the SII Digest and Podcast we could not have known the pivotal year we were about to experience.  It turns out we had plenty to talk about. The amalgamation of environmental, social, and corporate governance events has been truly epic. We could not be prouder of how our team took on the challenge.

Covid-19 continues as a backdrop of course. Many of the companies that are helping us to endure through both the pandemic and the fight against climate change seem to score higher on the ESG scale – and now, with more confidence, we see the values of their stocks reflecting this potential. There seems to be little doubt within the professional investment world that sustainability and social responsibility must be taken into consideration.

This edition focuses on the whole of this past year. What have we learned?   How far have we come?   What do we see ahead? In our SPOTLIGHT ON section, we asked experts from the industry to weigh-in on these questions.

The SII PODCAST hosted by Pat O’Neill, is a retrospective of the previous podcasts our first season – all 9 of them. This episode, our 10th, recalls some of the most interesting contributions from our amazing guests, a real treasure of information. Many thanks to Sureita Hockley, who expertly produces these podcasts and Paul Ellis who takes on the responsibility of sourcing our experts. The PODCAST team comes together in a roundtable style for a very informative session.

Originally, we thought it would be helpful to amplify all the smarts around environmentally and socially conscious investing. Our mission continues to make socially responsible investing more user friendly and actionable. We will continue down that path as we move into our next season.

We see the world coming together over this time with more of a shared purpose and clarity around ESG. The “pack” is getting stronger and that should be inspiring to us all.

Legislation bill passed by Congress – What is the Bill? What does it allow us to do? What still needs to be done?

…When day comes, we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid,
the new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

– Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate
Excerpt from “The Hill We Climb” (read at the 2021 Biden inauguration)

In this issue #9 of the Socially Inspired Investor Digest and companion Podcast, we look at how – in an unlikely bi-partisan way – Congress steps up to make an unequivocal stance supporting the fight against climate change, and significantly puts up billions to also make it a meaningful action for jobs and economic recovery. Funding for renewable energy and credits to consumers could make this legislation a critical turning point.

But wait, there could be more!  In addition to re-joining the Paris Accord, President Biden is proposing more clean energy enhancements in his $1.9 trillion COVID relief proposal.  We shall see what the final bill will include but we believe many of the provisions around environmental sustainability haves a decent chance of surviving.

In our SPOTLIGHT ON section, we asked our team of industry experts to weigh in on the key take-aways from the legislation – How it helps and what is still needed.  The tie-in to job creation seems to be a critical component in building support.

But here is the point for investors.  Criteria historically used to evaluate investment options are changing. Desmond Wheatley who is featured in this month’s Podcast points out that an additional factor to consider is companies meet the “inevitability” of change.  That sounds right as we seem to be in the golden age of companies of all types publicly announcing their commitments to achieving net zero carbon.

Many companies will need to adapt or unfortunately see their relative value diminish if they cannot keep up. Portfolios should be evaluated not only on previous results but also where in the changing landscape find these companies in 10, 20, 40 years. 

The environmental provisions in the December, $900 billion stimulus bill includes $35 billion funding for renewable technology and energy efficiency.

  • $4 billion for solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal research and development.
  • $1.7 billion to help low-income families install renewable energy sources in their homes.
  • $2.6 billion for the Energy Department’s sustainable transportation program.
  • and $500 million for research on reducing industrial emissions.

It also authorizes $2.9 billion for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, a program that funds high-risk, high-reward research.1

Welcome to 2021.  Time to freshen up those portfolios.


1 https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2020/12/21/congress-climate-spending/

JOBS – How is the nature of work changing as companies move toward a more socially and environmentally sustainable world?

The best way to predict the future is to create it.

– Abraham Lincoln

Under the radar for many, and most recently obscured by the ravages of Covid-19, the landscape for future jobs may be dramatically improving for the long term. 

Green and sustainably oriented companies are not only delivering on their ESG mandate, but other tangible dividends are providing a shot in the arm for the American worker and the communities that sorely need new purpose. We can see now how the promise of a new infrastructure for a new age goes way beyond merely saving the planet.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (9/20) two of the three fastest growing occupations projected over the next 10 years are jobs that didn’t even exist not too long ago:

#1 – Wind Turbine Service Technicians; and

#3 – Solar Photovoltaic Installers

(Nurse practitioners was #2)

Jobs like these in sustainably oriented companies now represent a powerful new resource for the middle class, with both white and blue-collar standing to benefit, mostly with good pay and benefits. And just in time, as jobs are being lost in the traditional energy sector due to technology and mechanical advancements. And investors who are lining up are winning as well.

In this issue of the Socially Inspired Investor (SII) we continue to focus on how the nature of Work and Jobs is changing. In our Podcast his month our host Pat O’Neil talks with Yana Kravtsova, Executive Vice President, Communication, Public and Environmental Affairs at Enviva LP., a leader in alternative energy producing wood pellets. Enviva is an example of a company that is providing new jobs, retraining opportunities and even conversions of old coal-based power plants. 

The Spotlight on section poses the question to leaders in the ESG Investing community, “How is the nature of work changing as companies move toward a more socially and environmentally sustainable world? “, and our Basic Investing section continues to build your foundation.

We wish you a happy and healthy New Year. 

JOBS – As ESG considerations become more widely adopted, what’s the realistic impact on current jobs and future job opportunities?

You may not control

all the events that

happen to you

but you can decide

not to be reduced

by them

– Maya Angelou

Essentially the debate over how far and how fast we should move toward achieving global sustainability – taking the steps needed to slow down and perhaps even reverse climate change – hinges for many and most passionately on the perception of the impact on JOBS, both current and future.

Although the discussion has been framed as a zero sum or win/lose proposition – expedient to politicians – most experts agree that this is simply a false choice. Progress on green initiatives does not necessarily need to mean a mass loss of current JOBS. We thought it would be important to explore this topic with those closer to the work in this our 7th edition of the Socially Inspired Investor. We will continue the focus on JOBS as well in the upcoming 8th edition since the topic is rich with content and purpose.

As ESG considerations become more widely adopted, what is the realistic impact on current JOBS and future JOB opportunities? Responses from our contributing experts found in the SPOTLIGHT ON section to this question seem to agree that technology and artificial intelligence as well as post-pandemic realities have already begun the transition. 

In the accompanying PODCAST hosted by Pat O’Neill, Peter Lupoff, CEO of Net Impact tells us about how companies are already working to provide a soft landing for many of their workers while redefining the future of work. No doubt you will be surprised at some of the companies in the forefront of taking on this challenge.

Please enjoy this issue and please also pass it along to others who may have an interest in socially responsible investing.