The Future Of Energy Is Finally Here

People have been expecting a boom in renewable energy for years — but now it might finally be happening. Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the United Nations New Energy Program reported in March that renewable energy as a percentage of global energy production is growing faster than expected: wind, solar, geothermal and biomass together made up more than half of all new electricity-production capacity brought online in 2015, an unprecedented milestone.

Renewable energy accounted for 10.3% of the world’s power production in 2015, up from 9.1% in 2014. Throw hydroelectric and nuclear power into the mix, and non-fossil-fuel production now accounts for a third of total power production. 

#-ad_banner-#This trend is almost certain to continue, as nations around the world try to reduce carbon emissions to slow global warming. Last December in Paris, almost every nation on Earth agreed to do so, and since then scientists have reported ever-more-dire warnings about the consequences if they fail. 

What does this mean for investors? For one thing, billions of dollars will be spent on non-carbon power sources over the next few years. In 2015 alone, $286 billion was spent on new renewable electricity capacity. So the market-share leaders in solar and wind power infrastructure will have the wind at their backs (pun intended). (The same is true of geothermal and biomass, but those sources account for much smaller percentages of power production.)

Here are two likely beneficiaries from the renewable-energy capacity boom:

SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWR) is a leading producer of high-quality, low-cost solar panels. The company distributes its products around the world for companies producing solar power for a variety of applications, from residential to commercial to utilities, even satellites and spacecraft. The company’s links to Stanford University have helped make it the provider of choice to the U.S. technology sector, which boosting strong growth and profitability.

SunPower is a research & development powerhouse; its solar cell technology can convert more than 22% of the sunlight hitting a panel into energy, higher than any competitor. This is helping generate strong sales in developing countries adding solar capacity, such as Mexico. SunPower’s sales to residential customers also are growing rapidly, with unit shipments up 60% in 2015 — and they should continue to soar thanks to its new Equinox, a sleek and efficient integrated system for which SunPower produces every component, an industry first.

SunPower is 65% owned by French energy giant Total S.A. (NYSE: TOT), which I see as a major positive. The larger company provides financial and ownership stability and will ensure that SunPower remains focused on its core mission. With a clean balance sheet, solid cash flow and positive earnings, SunPower is well positioned for rapid growth: the company plans to triple its installed capacity over the next three years.

Despite its sunny outlook and generally favorable estimates for future growth from industry analysts, SunPower trades 38% below its 52-week high. This stock is a great long-term buy that may also perform very well over the next six-to-12 months. 

First Trust Global Wind Energy ETF (NYSE: FAN) is an exchange-traded fund that invests in 42 stocks with stakes in the global wind energy industry. Because it invests in leading wind-power companies around the world — including some that aren’t easily purchasable by U.S. investors — this ETF represents a great way to ensure your portfolio participates in the wind revolution.

The fund’s portfolio tracks the ISE Global Wind Energy Index. Top holdings include Dutch wind-power leader Vestas Wind Systems (OTC: VWDRY), Australian wind-farm operator Infigen Energy (OTC: IFGNF), Spanish electric utility Iberdrola (OTC: IBDRY) and European renewable-energy leader Greentech Energy Systems (OTC: GRTSF). The portfolio also includes well-known industrial, energy and utility companies with significant wind-power exposure, including General Electric (NYSE: GE), Siemens (OTC: SIEGY), Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A) and Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK).

The ETF fell in the early weeks of 2016 as oil prices plunged to historic lows; investors assumed that renewable-energy companies might feel a short-term pinch as industrial and residential customers flocked to take advantage of cheap oil and natural gas prices. But as oil and gas prices rallied — and the inexorable long-term trend toward renewable energy continued to assert itself — the ETF is up about 15% over the past two months. Expect more of the same in the coming years.

Risks To Consider: Solar and wind energy sectors are soaring, creating strong optimism for the sector. Any setback thus may be magnified, hurting these stocks disproportionately. These industry also depend on positive economic growth for investment in renewable infrastructure (and, in the case of solar, residential demand).
Action To Take: Buy SunPower below $24 and First Trust Global Wind Energy ETF below $12.50.

P.S. A band of California scientists have finally broken through. They’ve created a revolutionary energy device that can power an entire factory for days — without being tied to the grid. The waiting list for it is over 100,000 people long, and The Wall Street Journal has already declared it “world-changing.” Click here for the full story.