Cuomo: NY must go 100 percent clean energy by 2040

New York would adopt the most aggressive clean energy goal of any state under a plan from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that calls for 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.

The Democrat says the state can wean itself off of fossil fuels by relying on wind, solar, hydroelectric and nuclear power.

Cuomo had previously set the state’s renewable energy goal at 50 percent by 2030, but officials now say the state can hit 75 percent by then.

Speaking on public radio Wednesday, Cuomo said New York has no choice but to move to entirely renewable energy because of the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions to address climate change.

Cuomo unveiled the proposal during his State of the State address on Tuesday. Lawmakers must approve the new goal.

The Trouble With the ‘Green New Deal’

It’s hard to recall a Washington idea that has rocketed to prominence as quickly as the “Green New Deal,“ rookie Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s radical proposal to decarbonize the American economy. House Democratic leaders have created a new select committee on climate change to pursue a Green New Deal. Democratic candidates for president are racing to endorse a Green New Deal. The details are still up in the air, but a massive climate investment is suddenly emerging as tentpole of Democratic politics.

Although the idea sounds as radical and new as Ocasio-Cortez herself, it’s been done once before, and just a decade ago: President Barack Obama signed a prototype Green New Deal into law in February 2009, pouring an unprecedented $90 billion into clean electricity, renewable fuels, advanced batteries, energy efficiency, a smarter grid and a slew of other green initiatives.

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If you haven’t heard of Obama’s Green New Deal, that’s because it was wrapped into an even larger and more controversial piece of legislation: The $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the stimulus. The main goal of the stimulus was to save the economy from a depression in the short term, which is why its push to move the economy toward clean energy in the long term was largely overlooked.

“People don’t understand how forward-leaning the stimulus was on climate issues,” says Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who chairs the new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. “It’s a road map for a Green New Deal.”

Democrats of all political stripes are now studying the green stimulus as a potential inspiration for a Green New Deal, as well as a cautionary tale. It jump-started America’s gradual transition to a low-carbon economy, but it didn’t capture America’s imagination—and when it did get attention, it was mostly mocked for financing the failure of a solar manufacturer called Solyndra. Now, establishment Democrats like Castor as well as insurgent Democrats aligned with Ocasio-Cortez are looking at it as a potential playbook for an even more ambitious package that could accelerate that transition away from the carbon emissions that heat up the planet—and hopefully avoid its political pitfalls.

Progressive activists like Sean McElwee, co-founder of Data for Progress, have criticized the select committee from the left, complaining that it won’t have subpoena power and will accept members who take fossil-fuel money. But as his group draws up a “greenprint” for a Green New Deal designed to eliminate poverty as well as emissions, McElwee agrees with Castor that the stimulus should be a model.

“There was an incredible amount of green stuff in it that people didn’t see,” McElwee says. “Now we’re saying: ‘How about a second stimulus that’s more directly green?’”

This political, economic and environmental moment has little in common with the one in which the stimulus debate played out after Obama’s election. Democrats no longer control the White House or the Senate; the economy is no longer in the midst of a terrifying free fall; clean energy has matured from infancy to adolescence. Obama grafted his green agenda onto a response to an economic emergency, while Ocasio-Cortez and other left-of-Obama activists are arguably trying to graft their economic agenda, including a government job guarantee and even universal health care, onto a response to a climate emergency. And since President Donald Trump is as hostile to climate action as he is friendly to fossil fuels, the debate over the Green New Deal is likely to be an exercise in messaging rather than policymaking until 2021 at the earliest.

But the Green New Deal, like the green stimulus, is ultimately supposed to produce economic as well as environmental transformation, and it’s raising some of the same questions Democrats grappled with a decade ago. What should be the top priority, and how far should it go to wrap in other priorities? Should the green stuff focus on safe and proven strategies for cutting emissions, or riskier and more aspirational ideas as well? What’s the plan to deal with the inevitable attacks from fossil-fuel interests and the Republican Party? What kind of compromises would be acceptable to broaden support and perhaps even win over some moderate Republicans? And should there be tax hikes or spending cuts to pay for it?

Determining the substantive details of a Green New Deal is already exposing political divisions. Ocasio-Cortez and other lefty firebrands see it as a vehicle to not only address the climate emergency but to root out inequality and transform capitalism; she has described it as “the Great Society, the moon shot, the civil rights movement of our generation.” More mainstream Democrats would prefer to focus on cutting the emissions that threaten the planet, arguing that transforming energy use will be a heavy enough lift as it is. Meanwhile, few Republicans even acknowledge there is a climate emergency, and the ones who do are skeptical of an aggressive Big Government mobilization to address it.

“The Green New Deal is not an ideal name if you want to attract bipartisan support,” says Rich Powell, executive director of the group Clear Path, which pushes conservative solutions to climate change. “There’s a lot of distrust of these home-run giga-packages. It’s been a lot more effective to try to hit some singles and doubles.”

The fault lines, in other words, resemble the fault lines of 2009. That debate produced a bill that was substantively groundbreaking for clean energy but politically debilitating for Democrats.

***

Obama’s top priority when he took office after the 2008 financial crisis was to resuscitate an economy that was losing nearly 800,000 jobs per month. The kind of fiscal stimulus that props up the economy in the short term requires a boost in government spending, so Obama figured he might as well use it to boost his long-term domestic policy agenda as well. Clean energy was high on that agenda, both to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil.

The stimulus that Obama worked out with a Democratic-controlled Congress would end up increasing U.S. clean energy spending more than twentyfold, producing the world’s largest wind farm, a half dozen of the world’s largest solar arrays, America’s first refineries for advanced biofuels, new projects to capture carbon, and order-of-magnitude increases in programs to help cities, towns and individual homeowners improve their energy efficiency. It also created ARPA-E, a cutting-edge energy research agency modeled on the Pentagon incubator that created the internet. And there were manufacturing incentives to build all that green stuff in the United States.

But the stimulus was an unprecedented exercise in deficit spending, as big in inflation-adjusted dollars as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s entire New Deal, and from the start it had two related political problems. Republicans savaged it in unison as a “porkulus” boondoggle, while Democrats mostly quibbled about it as either too small or too big, excessively or insufficiently focused on long-term priorities, with too much money for this or not enough money for that. The result was a cacophony of he-said-she-said coverage in which both sides sounded negative. The public’s reaction to the idea of economic recovery legislation, which had started out positive, turned sour within weeks. “We tried to put out facts, but the Republicans hijacked the narrative so quickly,” recalled Sanjay Wagle, a clean energy adviser in Obama’s Department of Energy.

The Democrats passed the stimulus in the House without a single Republican vote, but in the Senate they needed support from three Republicans to get the 60 votes necessary to overcome then-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s filibuster. This was the second problem, because Obama had to address every concern of those three Republicans, as well as several wavering Democrats, if he wanted the stimulus to pass. For example, Obama’s draft included $10 billion for a nationwide effort to upgrade the energy efficiency of public schools, but GOP Senator Susan Collins of Maine didn’t want it. So the legislation ended up with nothing for green schools.

The stimulus still took a pioneering swing at the clean-energy issue, and if the green part had been its own law, it would have been the most sweeping climate bill any president had ever passed. But Democrats didn’t do much to call attention to it at the time, and even New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who coined the phrase “Green New Deal” in 2007, recently wrote that “the idea just never took off” until now.

Today, Democrats are gaming out the politics of a less surreptitious Green New Deal that would proudly go by that name, and wouldn’t necessarily be bundled into anything else—although they’re mostly imagining this happening in a post-2020 world in which they’ve reclaimed the White House and Senate. For starters, McElwee hopes a Democratic Senate would avoid ambition-constraining compromises by passing a Green New Deal with only 50 votes through a filibuster-proof reconciliation bill, just as Republicans passed their $2 trillion tax cut. And just as Obama often talked about “green jobs” during the stimulus debate, McElwee envisions Democratic politicians using a Green New Deal as a politically attractive source of jobs they can steer to their states, bringing home solar projects and weatherization programs the way they currently boast about military contracts and farm subsidies.

But Stephen O’Hanlon, spokesman for the youth-oriented Sunrise Movement that has pressured Democratic leaders to make climate action a top priority, says the experience of the stimulus offers some bracing political lessons to Green New Deal supporters: that they won’t be able to take Democrats for granted no matter how many jobs the policy produces, and that Republicans might be a lost cause entirely.

Rifts are already emerging within the Democratic coalition. For example, some labor unions resent liberal opposition to pipelines and “clean coal” projects that create jobs for their members. Meanwhile, some energy wonks have raised objections to Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed mandate for 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030, arguing that zero-carbon nuclear energy should count, too, and that even some natural gas can be less damaging for the climate than dirtier coal. There’s also the question of how to pay for a Green New Deal; Ocasio-Cortez has suggested raising marginal tax rates for the rich to 70 percent, while more moderate Democrats want to look for areas to reduce spending, and some liberals would be happy to put the entire initiative on the national credit card.

The way to win, O’Hanlon said, will be to draw another lesson from the stimulus: Legislation won’t make the case for itself. Supporters need to make the case for it. A recent Yale University poll found that 81 percent of Americans support the idea of a Green New Deal, including 64 percent of Republicans—but then again, the idea of an economic recovery bill was also popular before Fox News and GOP leaders began trashing it. Obama had only a month to sell the stimulus, and O’Hanlon says Green New Deal backers are already preparing to pre-empt the coming backlash by holding rallies around the country highlighting rising seas, intensifying storms and other byproducts of the climate crisis. Castor said her committee also intends to hold hearings around the country, to emphasize how climate change is creating wildfires in California as well as floods in Miami. The goal is to convince the public that an extreme emergency justifies extreme actions.

“We saw how the conservative media and the Republican Party painted a strong economic recovery plan as something that was just about wasting tons of money,” O’Hanlon says. “This time, we’re trying to get ahead of that.”

The Green New Deal’s popularity will depend at least in part on its content. But here, too, the stimulus offers a dose of cold water. The content of the stimulus seemed tailor-made for popularity: tax cuts and spending goodies for almost all Americans, the biggest infrastructure investments since the interstate highways, and an all-of-the-above energy strategy supporting a variety of green experiments so that the winners and losers would be chosen by the free market, not by Washington. Some of the experiments—notably clean coal plants, subsidies for biofuels and a loan for a new nuclear plant—did not work well. But some worked extraordinarily well, helping formerly expensive technologies work their way down the cost curve. U.S. wind capacity has more than tripled since 2008, while solar capacity is up more than sixfold. LEDs were 1 percent of the lighting market in 2008; now they’re more than half the market. There were almost no plug-in electric vehicles in 2008; now there are more than 1 million on U.S. roads.

Still, the only news most Americans heard about the green stimulus was the failure of Solyndra, the notorious California solar company that defaulted on a $535 million Energy Department loan. The Obama administration never claimed that every high-risk investment would pay out, and a slew of investigations never uncovered anything untoward about the Solyndra deal, but Republicans instantly turned Solyndra into a symbol of government incompetence and corruption. Overall, the loan programs had a failure rate of only 2 percent, turning a profit for taxpayers and boosting innovative firms like Tesla, but Obama aides who tried to highlight green successes ran into a narrative wall of Solyndra-Solyndra-Solyndra.

“A big part of politics is storytelling, and we didn’t tell our story very well,” says Cathy Zoi, a former assistant energy secretary under Obama. “Our investments really catalyzed market transformation, but that message didn’t get out.”

***

There’s a tendency among experts to assume that their preferred climate policy approach would also be the optimal political approach. For instance, many economists argue that assessing a tax or some other market-based price on carbon would be much more popular than subsidizing green technologies, even though a “cap-and-trade” bill failed in the Democratic Congress in 2009, and a fairly modest carbon tax in France has inspired riots. Really, it’s hard to predict what will be popular. Polls suggest broad support for more deployment of wind, solar and electric-vehicle charging infrastructure, as well as mandates and incentives to improve energy efficiency. But Republican attacks portrayed stimulus programs to weatherize low-income homes in order to increase their energy efficiency as welfare handouts, and Trump has gone after Obama’s fuel-efficiency mandates as anti-business, so it may be folly to expect consensus on anything.

There’s plenty of time to work out Green New Deal details. Data for Progress is looking into everything from restoring agricultural wetlands to subsidizing electricity storage to removing lead paint from low-income communities. Castor says her committee will try to inject the climate issue into just about everything Congress does, not only energy, transportation and infrastructure bills, but military spending, tax legislation, and even disaster aid.

But some climate hawks are already nervous that the bold environmental goals could become cannon fodder in a war over even bolder economic proposals like “a job guarantee program to assure a living wage job for everyone.” Ocasio-Cortez’s website casually mentions in Section 6.B.iv of her plan that the Green New Deal “should include universal health care and any other measure the committee deems appropriate for economic security.”

Alex Trembath, deputy director of the Breakthrough Institute, worries that the vague and gauzy climate goals of a Green New Deal will get lost in a partisan and ideological war over capitalism and the economy. “I worry that the energy and climate stuff hasn’t been fleshed out, but it’s full speed ahead on a jobs guarantee,” he said. “I mean, the politics of this is already really hard. I’d be cautious about attaching free college to it, because that’s going to make it harder.”

But on the left, reducing emissions is seen as just one plank in a much broader progressive agenda. Data for Progress research director Greg Carlock says the Green New Deal isn’t just an environmental initiative that would happen to create jobs; it’s an economic justice initiative that would root out inequality by taking on the powerful interests who harm the earth as well as the poor.

“These problems are inherently tied together, and the solutions should be, too,” Carlock says.

***

In some ways, current attitudes toward the Green New Deal seem to reflect lingering attitudes toward Obama and his stimulus.

The Obama stimulus succeeded in its main goal of averting a depression and ending a brutal recession; the U.S. economy, after contracting at an 8 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2008, was growing again by the summer of 2009. But some progressive activists who support a Green New Deal emphasize what Obama and the stimulus didn’t do, like dramatically boost wages, or reverse growing inequality. Similarly, while Obama and the stimulus did launch a clean-energy transition that simply didn’t exist before 2009, some elements of the left focus on the vast gap between the emissions reductions that have happened and the reductions that still need to happen to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

“The facts are, Obama accomplished more on climate than any president ever, and also he failed to go as far as was necessary to give our generation a livable future,” says O’Hanlon, the 23-year-old spokesman for the Sunrise Movement.

Of course, most Republicans don’t think much of Obama or his stimulus—and it’s hard to imagine that they’ll embrace something more ambitious pushed by more liberal politicians. But among Democratic activists, the debates over the Green New Deal tend to mirror long-running debates over the value of pragmatism and incrementalism versus idealism and radicalism. Establishment Democrats emphasize that unemployment fell from a high of 10 percent to less than 5 percent on Obama’s watch, while the cost of solar power, wind power and battery storage have all plunged more than 70 percent since 2009. Rebels like Ocasio-Cortez are more likely to emphasize that most pretax gains in the Obama era went to top earners, and that the vast majority of the U.S. economy still relies on fossil fuels.

It can be hard to tell on Twitter, where Ocasio-Cortez is a rock star and glass-half-empty Bernie Sanders fans create noise disproportionate to their numbers, but most Democrats consider Obama to have been a good president, and that includes most Democrats in Congress. Congresswoman Castor pointed out to me that her website still has a button linking to the Recovery Act, where her constituents can see how the stimulus sent money to the Tampa area for home weatherization, solar panels on the county courthouse and modernization of the electric grid. “I was just asking my staff: ‘Do you think it’s time to take that down?’” she told me in a recent interview. “But then I said, ‘Nah, let’s keep it up there.’ People should know how much it did.”

Castor hopes her climate committee will do even more to move the economy in greener directions. She even thinks some Republicans might cross the aisle to help, as climate science grows more overwhelming and the mainstream media feels less responsibility to air dissenting viewpoints. But she’s confident that Democrats will come together to support action, even if they squabble over the details.

“Look, cutting our emissions in half by 2030 is going to be a tall order for a Congress that can’t even fund the government,” Castor says. “But climate is an issue that unites Democrats.”

Ocasio-Cortez took a lot of flak for disloyalty when she stopped by the Sunrise Movement’s protest in Nancy Pelosi’s office; establishment Democrats complained that she should use her newfound celebrity to shame Republicans who don’t even admit there’s a problem, not a new speaker who’s been an ally on climate issues. But Ocasio-Cortez has already forced Pelosi and other Democratic leaders to move the climate issue to the top of their agenda, an impressive achievement for a new backbencher. The first thing Democrats did when Obama took office was the stimulus; if Democrats take power in 2021, thanks to Ocasio-Cortez and the movement she’s inspiring, the first thing they do might be a Green New Deal.

“The big question for Democrats right now is: What’s going to be the top priority?” McElwee said. “Well, the most popular young progressive has staked an enormous amount of political capital to say: It’s going to be climate.”

Michael Grunwald is a senior staff writer for Politico Magazine.

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These countries are pioneering hydrogen power

Renewable energy pioneers on the Scottish Orkney Islands are aiming to launch the world’s first seagoing ferries powered by hydrogen. The project represents just one application for a fuel that has the potential to clean up the transport sector.

When generated using renewable energy, hydrogen gas reduces carbon dioxide emissions and provides a “greener” alternative to fossil fuels like oil or natural gas. Hydrogen is created by passing an electrical current through water to separate hydrogen and oxygen, leaving clean water as the only byproduct. A fuel cell allows the process to be reversed so hydrogen can then produce electricity. A number of countries are working to promote game-changing hydrogen projects.

 How greenhouse gas emissions are projected to rise

How greenhouse gas emissions are projected to rise

Image: WEF

As the chart shows, the current greenhouse gas trajectory will far exceed the global warming limits set by the Paris Agreement. The transition to renewables depends on new energy technologies being scaled-up to provide workable substitutes for our dependence on fossil fuels.

Certainly, hydrogen comes with unique challenges: the gas is bulky, requires expensive specialist equipment that can be costly to maintain, and few people have experience of working with it.

A recent World Economic Forum white paper, called Accelerating Sustainable Energy Innovation addresses the issues facing the energy industry in its quest to cut emissions. The report looks at ways to overcome the barriers to developing policies and initiatives that will bring about a sustainable energy future.

These are some of the countries leading the hydrogen charge:

Scotland

The remote island of Eday is home to an experimental energy initiative backed by the European Marine Energy Centre. In 2017, the project successfully used tidal power to produce hydrogen. The project was recently awarded €12 million in funding to develop a hydrogen power system for the car and passenger ferries that connect the Orkney archipelago.

An aerial view of the Orkney Islands, Scotland May 3, 2014. During both World Wars, Scapa Flow was an important British naval base, and the site of significant loss of life. Following the end of World War One, 74 German warships were interned there, and on June 21, 1919 most were deliberately sunk, or scuttled, at the orders of German Rear Admiral Ludwig Von Reuter, who mistakenly thought that the Armistice had broken down and wanted to prevent the British from using the ships. Now Scapa Flow is a popular site for divers, who explore the few wrecks that still remain at the bottom. The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Picture taken May 3, 2014. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis (BRITAIN - Tags: CONFLICT ANNIVERSARY ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY MARITIME) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 01 OF 28 FOR PACKAGE 'WWI - EXPLORING SUNKEN WARSHIPS'TO FIND ALL IMAGES SEARCH 'SCAPA FLOW' - GM1EA6J0S8B01

Image: REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

If the ferry launch proceeds as planned by 2021, the Eday project looks set to beat competition from other parts of the globe to become the first in the world to power a seagoing vehicle and passenger ferry using hydrogen.

Neil Kermode, managing director of Orkney’s European Marine Energy Centre, told the Financial Times: “We’re proving that you can take the wind and the waves and the tides around us and use it to propel vessels through the water.”

England

Unlike battery electric vehicles (BEVs), ferries, cars, trucks and ships powered by hydrogen can be refuelled as quickly as a conventional petrol or diesel vehicle. Fast refuelling is an important consideration for London’s Metropolitan Police Service, which has added 11 Toyota Mirai cars fitted with hydrogen fuel cells to its fleet of response vehicles.

Image: Metropolitan Police

The zero-emissions police cars can access five gas filling stations throughout London and this number is set to increase. The new vehicles have a 480km range and rapid acceleration, although top speeds are limited to around 170km per hour.

Speaking to The Sunday Times about the move to hydrogen vehicles, Metropolitan Police Commander Neil Jerome said: “This is enabling us to make great strides towards our ambition of procuring 550 vehicles as zero or ultra-low emission by 2020.”

The world’s first hydrogen-powered trains are operating in northern Germany on a 100km stretch of track. Although costlier than existing diesel locomotives, the new zero-emissions engines are kinder to the environment.

Equipped with fuel cells that produce electricity, the trains emit only water and steam instead of harmful carbon dioxide. The engines can run for 1,000km on a tank of hydrogen and store excess energy produced by the fuel cell on board in ion-lithium batteries.

Image: Alston

Train manufacturer Alstom told The Guardian it plans to deliver a further 14 of the new engines to Lower Saxony state by 2021. Interest in the new trains has been expressed by other German states and internationally from countries including the UK, Norway, Denmark, France and Canada.

Japan

The world’s first commercial hydrogen-powered fuel cell car was produced by a Japanese manufacturer. The Toyota Mira established Japan as a leader in hydrogen innovation, but the nation harbors big ambitions to create an emissions-free transport sector.

With the 2020 Olympics coming up, the host nation is aiming to create a hydrogen society, promoting the gas as an emissions-free energy source. Tokyo authorities plan to increase the eight existing refuelling stations to 35 by 2020, so motorists will never be further than 15 minutes away from a refuelling point.

With interest in hydrogen as a fuel source growing around the world, pioneering projects offer an important test of the role the gas can play in a new energy economy.

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Solar storage technology is having its time in the sun

Hawaiian Electric Company just submitted to state regulators seven massive new solar-plus-storage contracts. If built, these would add more than 260 megawatts of solar and, more significantly, over 1,000 megawatt-hours of storage to the Hawaiian grid — more than the total cumulative amount of energy storage deployed across the U.S. between 2013 and 2017.

Why it matters: Solar plus storage is having a breakout moment. The technology allows the power generated by intermittent renewables to be better matched to times when the grid needs it most, which is critical for clean energy growth to continue. It also means that renewables may come to compete more directly with natural gas in some markets, rather than requiring more gas to balance their intermittency, as has been the case so far.

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Details: All but one of these contracts came in under 10 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). These prices are less than the existing price of fossil-fuel derived power in Hawaii (15 cents/kWh), and would dramatically undercut the cost of fossil fuel power in Puerto Rico, which exceeds (20 cents/kWh).

  • With Puerto Rico at an inflection point as it considers the possibility of a completely new power sector model amid its rebuilding efforts, it would be well advised to learn from Hawaii’s experience.

What to watch: Artificial intelligence will likely be added to more solar plus storage technology in 2019 to crunch massive amounts of incoming data. This could help make use of and discharge storage in a way that, for example, helps consumers to avoid large demand peaks (and thus demand charges) or producers to push power on the grid when it can capture the most value, from both high power prices and revenue from offering ancillary services. This is one of the most logical, and potentially transformative, early applications of AI to the energy sector thus far.

David Livingston is deputy director for climate and advanced energy at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center.

Wi-Fi boosters, solar panels and USB ports: New recreational vehicles target millennials

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DENVER — RV dealers are hoping campers fitted with solar panels, USB ports and Wi-Fi signal boosters will entice younger buyers as the industry worries over slowing sales and higher prices from President Donald Trump’s so-called trade war with China and Canada.

“People nowadays want all the comforts of home,” said Jim Humble, president of Colorado-based Cousins RV dealership. “All your campgrounds have Wi-Fi now, but if you’re far away from the front, you want that signal booster.”

The RV industry has been aggressively targeting millennials for several years, hoping to tap into a group of buyers who’ve traditionally shied away from the lifestyle once associated primarily with retirees. New offerings are lighter and easier to use. Hundreds were on display this week at the Colorado RV Adventure & Travel Show, one of the nation’s largest.

Many of even the smallest RVs and trailers contain solar panels, entertainment systems and wiring to charge smartphones and tablets far from plug-in power.

“The extra amenities now, it’s like glamping,” said Ryan Daniels 38, as he browsed the show with his pregnant wife, Emily, 36. “We love every amenity. We don’t want to struggle too much.”

Daniels and his wife already have two young children, and with a third on the way they are looking to upgrade their current 28-foot RV trailer, possibly replacing it with Class C-style motorhome, which would allow them to drive and access the living spaces simultaneously.

Like many other parents with young kids, they said the safety and comfort of an RV compared to a tent is a primary motivator. “We’re not that rustic,” Emily Daniels said with a laugh.

RV dealers are hoping shoppers like the Daniels can help stave off what’s expected to be a down year for RV sales. Prices for raw materials, particularly metal, along with imported components, like microwaves, stoves and lighting, are rising due to the ongoing tariff battle with China and Canada. While most RVs are still built in the United States, their components often come from abroad.

Those higher prices may be offset, however, by large inventories of RVs built in the past year or so by manufacturers who’ve seen multiple boom years.

“The industry is kind of in a weird spot,” Humble said.

Overall, RV shipments are likely to drop about 5.4 percent this year, according to longtime RV industry analyst, Richard Curtin, who is a professor at the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center. Curtin predicts about 453,200 RVs will ship from manufacturers to dealers this year, down from about 479,000 in 2018 and a high of 504,600 in 2017.

In a statement, RV Industry Association President Frank Hugelmeyer said slowing sales were inevitable due in part to the fact that so many Americans have bought RVs over the past decade. Other trends driving RV ownership have included lower gas prices and interest rates. Most RVs costing more than $25,000 qualify for longer-term loans because banks classify them as second homes rather than vehicles or trailers.

“The mild downturn in shipments reflects the impact of higher manufacturing costs for RV producers, and RV dealers adjusting their inventories due to changes in inventory carrying costs,” Hugelmeyer said. “All relevant economic factors have been favorable for so long that slippage at some point was inevitable.”

 

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How the fossil fuel industry got the media to think climate change was debatable


A brown-coal-fired power plant in Bergheim, Germany. (Sascha Steinbach/EPA-EFE/REX)
Amy Westervelt is an audio and print reporter who covers climate and gender, and sometimes the intersection of the two. Her podcast Drilled is about the creation and spread of climate denial and her first book “Forget ‘Having It All'” was published by Seal Press in November 2018.

Late last year, the Trump administration released the latest national climate assessment on Black Friday in what many assumed was an attempt to bury the document. If that was the plan, it backfired, and the assessment wound up earning more coverage than it probably would have otherwise. But much of that coverage perpetuated a decades-old practice, one that has been weaponized by the fossil fuel industry: false equivalence.

Although various business interests began pushing back against environmental action in general in the early 1970s as part of the conservative “war of ideas” launched in response to the social movements of the 1960s, when global warming first broke into the public sphere, it was a bipartisan issue and remained so for years. On the campaign trail in 1988, George H.W. Bush identified as an environmentalist and called for action on global warming, framing it as a technological challenge that American innovation could address. But fossil fuel interests were shifting as the industry and its allies began to push back against empirical evidence of climate change, taking many conservatives along with them.

Documents uncovered by journalists and activists over the past decade lay out a clear strategy: First, target media outlets to get them to report more on the “uncertainties” in climate science, and position industry-backed contrarian scientists as expert sources for media. Second, target conservatives with the message that climate change is a liberal hoax, and paint anyone who takes the issue seriously as “out of touch with reality.” In the 1990s, oil companies, fossil fuel industry trade groups and their respective PR firms began positioning contrarian scientists such as Willie Soon, William Happer and David Legates as experts whose opinions on climate change should be considered equal and opposite to that of climate scientists. The Heartland Institute, which hosts an annual International Conference on Climate Change known as the leading climate skeptics conference, for example, routinely calls out media outlets (including The Washington Post) for showing “bias” in covering climate change when they either decline to quote a skeptic or question a skeptic’s credibility.

Data on how effective this strategy has been is hard to come by, but anecdotal evidence of its success abounds. In the early 1990s, polls showed that about 80 percent of Americans were aware of climate change and accepted that something must be done about it, an opinion that crossed party lines. By 2008, Gallup found a marked partisan divide on climate change. By 2010, the American public’s belief in climate change hit an all-time low of 48 percent, despite the fact that those 20 years saw increased research, improved climate models and several climate change predictions coming true.

By demanding “balance,” the industry transformed climate change into a partisan issue. We know that was a deliberate strategy because various internal documents from ExxonMobil, Shell, the American Petroleum Institute and a handful of now-defunct fossil fuel industry groups reveal not only the industry’s strategy to target media with this message and these experts, but also its own preemptive debunking of the very theories it went on to support.

It need not have been such a successful strategy: If news purveyors really wanted to be evenhanded on coverage of climate change, they could certainly weave in the insights of more conservative scientists — those whose predictions err on the sunnier side of apocalypse. Instead, many took the industry’s bait, routinely inserting denialist claims into stories about climate science in the interest of providing balance: In an analysis of 636 articles covering climate change that appeared in “prestige U.S. outlets” from 1988 to 2002, researchers from the University of California at Santa Cruz and American University found that 52.65 percent presented climate science and contrarian theories as equal. The practice continued into the mid-2000s. As recently as 2007, PBS New Hour invited well-known (and widely debunked) former weatherman Anthony Watts on to counterbalance Richard Muller, a former Koch-funded skeptic who had shifted his view.

By about 2008, most mainstream print outlets had moved past the notion that “balance” means including climate contrarians in coverage of climate science. These outlets do still trip up occasionally, though. In 2017, ProPublica published a remarkably uncritical Q&A with Happer, for example, describing him as “brilliant and controversial,” and characterizing his view that global warming is good for the planet as merely “unusual.” That same year, the New York Times was roundly criticized for hiring climate contrarian Bret Stephens as a regular editorial columnist (and his first column didn’t help).

While print outlets aren’t perfect, TV news has lagged further behind on climate, often presenting climate contrarians as an equal and opposite balance to climate scientists. In coverage of the national climate assessment, for example, multiple cable news shows featured both climate scientists and climate deniers, as though the two are simply opposite sides of a debate. “Meet the Press,” “Anderson Cooper 360” and “State of the Union” all brought on climate deniers to provide balance to their shows. Republican politicians made the cable news rounds, too, spouting familiar tall tales about climate change being normal and cyclical or sun spots and volcanoes being the real culprits. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) repeated the “the climate always changes” story on CNN, while Rick Santorum, informal White House adviser Stephen Moore and British politician Nigel Farage pushed the “climate scientists getting rich” narrative.

Though some outlets have moved to extricate deniers from the conversation, too many television news programs continue to bring on “contrarian” experts, giving a platform to tired lies. I say “lies” because fossil fuel industry scientists debunked these theories themselves decades ago, so they are knowingly perpetuating falsehoods. In a “global warming primer” prepared in the 1990s by the Global Climate Coalition, a since-disbanded consortium of fossil fuel producers, utilities, manufacturers, and other U.S. business interests (including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce), a Mobil scientist debunked all of the prevailing contrarian theories of the day on climate change. That part of the primer was left unprinted, of course, and oil companies went on to fund scientists promoting those very theories — the same ones that industry spokesmen and conservative politicians spout today.

In addition to propping up experts and leaning on media to use them as sources, oil companies have spent millions on advertising and advertorials over the years. Which seems innocuous — most companies advertise — but oil companies don’t sell a consumer product so much as a commodity. Most people aren’t loyal to a particular brand of gas; they buy whatever is most convenient or cheapest. So, when oil companies take out ads, it’s with the intention of shifting the opinions of the voting public, policymakers, and the media.

In an exhaustive survey of ExxonMobil’s advertorials from 1977 to 2014, science historian Naomi Oreskes and researcher Geoffrey Supran found that these pieces often took the form of “op-ads” that look and read a lot like op-eds but are paid for by an advertiser. Some simply presented positive stories about the company (heavily focused on their investments in algal biofuels, for example), but others argued for more relaxed policies on offshore drilling or a “common sense” approach to climate change regulation. The researchers found that “83 percent of peer-reviewed papers and 80 percent of internal documents acknowledge that climate change is real and human-caused, yet only 12% of advertorials do so, with 81 percent instead expressing doubt.”

A 1981 internal Mobil memo discovered by the Climate Investigations Center is an evaluation of the first decade of Mobil’s advertorial program, and it makes the company’s goals clear: “Not only is the company presenting its opinion to key opinion leaders, but it has been engaging in continuing debate with the New York Times itself. In fact, the paper has even changed to positions similar to Mobil’s on at least seven key energy issues.”

Granted, Mobil communications staff are giving themselves a lot of credit here, but whether they accomplished their goal is almost beside the point. This document shows the intention of these campaigns, and that’s something that should be taken seriously by any media outlet agreeing to run them, especially because many still do today. Campaigns that bring in big money at a time when the business of news is struggling are surely hard to turn down, but media outlets need to seriously consider the impact these campaigns have on their ability to inform the public, and work to mitigate that impact, above and beyond the usual “church and state” division between advertising and editorial. They could stop running these campaigns alongside climate reporting, do a better job of labeling campaigns, or refuse to run them altogether.

It’s well past time the media stopped allowing itself to be a tool in the fossil fuel industry’s information war. Oreskes likens the push for “balance” on climate change to journalists arguing over the final score of a baseball game. “If the Yankees beat the Red Sox 6-2, journalists would report that. They would not feel compelled to find someone to say actually the Red Sox won, or the score was 6-4,” she says.

Top Clean Energy Stocks for 2019

The world faces two monumental tasks. It needs to continue meeting steadily growing energy demand, which is expected to expand by another 25% by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency, while minimizing the impact on the environment. It’s a crucial dual mission that will require $2 trillion per year of investment in new energy supply, with those dollars needing to skew toward cleaner sources.

That investment in clean energy could generate enormous profits for investors who choose the right stocks. To get there, we’ll need to first take a deep dive into the sector to unearth the most compelling opportunities. From there, we’ll need to sharpen our knowledge of what to look for in the companies targeting these opportunities so we can narrow our list to the top options.

A person holding a plant with a bright lightbulb in it surrounded by icons for energy such as a solar panels and wind turbines.

Image source: Getty Images.

What is clean energy?

The term “clean energy” is broader than most investors probably realize. While many believe that the term is a synonym for renewable energy, it encompasses even more sources of energy. Whereas renewables include energy derived from wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal sources, clean energy also includes nuclear, clean coal, fuel cells, energy from waste, biofuels such as ethanol and wood pellets, and natural gas. Because of that, clean energy encapsulates all of the alternatives to oil and coal, not just the renewable ones.

That’s because clean energy implies that the source emits lower levels of pollution, therefore making it better for the environment than “dirty” fossil fuels like oil and coal, which produce significant amounts of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants. This distinction is why a lower-carbon fuel like natural gas, for example — which emits 50% fewer emissions when burned than coal — is on the list even though it’s nowhere near as clean as renewable energy sources like wind and solar. 

The outlook for clean energy

The world is on pace to add 1.7 billion new people to the planet by 2040. As a result of those new additions, along with rising income levels from those of us already here, energy demand is on pace to expand by 25% by 2040. To meet this need, the world must continue investing in new energy supplies.

However, if governments and companies continue focusing their investments on fossil fuels, it would likely cause carbon emissions to rise to an even more dangerous level. That’s why more money needs to go toward lower-carbon options like renewables, nuclear, and natural gas. Many forecasters anticipate this to be the case, with the International Energy Agency, for example, modeling that 80% of this future investment will be on low-carbon energy sources.

Because of that, the energy produced by cleaner sources is expected to expand at a fast pace in the coming years. Renewables like wind and solar, for example, are on track to grow 18% by 2035 according to a forecast by well-respected energy industry consultancy Wood Mackenzie, which is a much faster growth rate than that projected for oil (14% over that timeframe) or coal (7%). However, what might surprise investors is that natural gas demand will expand by an even faster 46% by 2035, according to Wood Mackenzie. Meanwhile, the energy produced by nuclear and all other sources is on pace to grow at much slower speeds of 10% and 6%, respectively. Given this forecast, investors should focus their clean energy investments on renewables and natural gas since those opportunities have the most growth potential.  

Despite the crucial need for clean energy investment, several headwinds could affect the sector in the near term. For starters, the Trump administration imposed tariffs on imported solar panels, fees enacted to protect the solar industry in the United States. That added to the cost of installing solar and is starting to hurt demand. During the third quarter of 2018, for example, solar installations dropped 15% year over year thanks to the impact of the tariffs. Those added fees could further dampen the solar sector’s prospects in 2019. That’s certainly the view of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), which anticipates that U.S. solar generation growth will decelerate in 2019, only increasing 13% after rising 27% during 2018.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration also imposed tariffs on imported steel, which will make wind turbines more expensive. Those fees could add 10% to the cost of building new wind farms. On top of that headwind, federal tax credits for wind power are nearing expiration, which could affect the pace of development beyond 2020. 

A road leading up to a row of wind turbines with the sun setting in the distance.

Image source: Getty Images.

How to invest in clean energy stocks

Despite the significant promise and growth potential of clean energy, the stock prices of many companies operating in the sector haven’t enriched investors. The Invesco Global Clean Energy ETF, for example — which is an exchange-traded fund that holds more than 100 clean energy investments — lost about 20% of its value in 2018, putting it down double-digits over the last five years. Meanwhile, several clean energy stocks have declined even further, with some declaring bankruptcy due to company-specific issues, usually related to a lack of profits and a debt-laden balance sheet.

Because the sector can be a challenging one for investors, they need to focus their attention on companies that not only have strong growth prospects, but also sound financial profiles. As such, investors should seek out companies that are already profitable and generate healthy cash flows, because that makes it less likely that they’ll lack the funds needed to expand their operations. In addition, investors should look for companies that have strong balance sheets, which ideally means they have investment-grade credit ratings, signifying that they have the resources to meet their financial obligations during a market downturn, as well as a significant amount of cash and available credit to finance their expansion plans.

Speaking of growth, investors should also take a close look at a company’s prospects, paying closest attention to visible near-term growth via either expansion projects under way or secured sales contracts, since those factors increase the probability that the company can grow its earnings — and therefore shareholder value — in the coming year.

Top clean energy stocks for 2019

With those factors in mind, here are five top clean energy stocks to consider for 2019:

Clean Energy Stocks

Ticker Symbol

Clean Energy Focus

Brookfield Renewable Partners

(NYSE:BEP)

Hydroelectric power with some wind, solar, and storage

TerraForm Power

(NASDAQ:TERP)

Wind and solar

NextEra Energy

(NYSE:NEE)

Wind, solar, natural gas, nuclear, and storage

Cheniere Energy

(NYSEMKT:LNG)

Liquified natural gas

First Solar

(NASDAQ:FSLR)

Solar panel manufacturer

Data source: Company Investor Relations’ website.

Here’s a closer look at why these five clean energy companies appear well positioned to generate strong returns for investors in 2019 and beyond.

The hydropower king: Brookfield Renewable Partners

Brookfield Renewable Partners controls one of the largest portfolios of renewable power generating facilities in the world, operating in 15 countries, though the bulk of its assets are in Colombia, Brazil, the U.S., and Canada. The company owns a diversified mix of hydroelectric, wind, solar, and energy storage facilities, though it’s a global leader in generating hydroelectric power, which comprised about 76% of its portfolio at the end of 2018.

What makes Brookfield’s focus on hydropower so intriguing for investors is that these facilities generate steady renewable electricity for decades and require minimal recurring investment for maintenance, which gives them a leg up on other renewables like wind and solar, which need higher levels of regular upkeep and tend only to last a couple of decades. Because of that, hydropower plants typically generate lots of cash flow for their owners. Brookfield further solidifies its cash flow profile by signing long-term contracts to sell the power it produces at fixed prices, which insulates it from fluctuations in electricity rates.

Aside from hydropower plants, Brookfield also operates some wind farms as well as a few energy storage facilities, which use water or batteries to store electricity until it’s needed. In addition to that, the company holds a controlling stake in TerraForm Power. These renewable power investments also tend to generate stable cash flow for the company, backed by long-term contracts.

Brookfield returns about 70% of the cash flow produced by its expansive portfolio of renewable investments to investors via a dividend, which yielded an attractive 7.8% at the end of 2018. The hydropower giant reinvests its retained cash into additional renewable energy assets and had several projects under construction heading into 2019, including new hydroelectric facilities in Brazil and a pumped storage project in North America.

Brookfield Renewable Partners believes it should have plenty of opportunities to continue expanding its renewable energy portfolio in the future. In the company’s estimation, the renewable energy market represents a $10 trillion opportunity, which should allow it to invest about $700 million per year to build or buy high-quality renewable assets. The company can finance that level of investment with retained cash flow and its strong, investment-grade balance sheet, which had more than $2.3 billion of cash and available credit available at the end of 2018. Those investments, when combined with the embedded growth of its existing portfolio, should expand its cash flow per share at a 6% to 11% annual pace. That should give the company enough power to increase its dividend by 5% to 9% per year. That healthy growth rate, when added to Brookfield Renewable’s high-yielding dividend, could give it the power to generate total annual returns in the mid-teens, making it a great stock for income-seeking investors. 

Solar panels with the sun shining from behind.

Image source: Getty Images.

A high-yielding wind and solar company: TerraForm Power

TerraForm Power operates wind and solar assets, primarily in North America and Western Europe. As of the end of 2018, the wind generated about 63% of its power while the sun contributed the other 37%. Like Brookfield Renewable, TerraForm Power sells its electricity under long-term contracts, which locks in power prices to produce predictable cash flow.

The company aims to pay out between 80% to 85% of its cash flow to shareholders via its dividend, which yielded 7.2% at the end of 2018. TerraForm Power plans to reinvest its remaining cash in projects that will increase its cash flow, such as expanding its sites or repowering its wind farms by replacing aging turbines with new, more powerful ones.

Those growth-focused investments, when combined with TerraForm’s internal initiatives to reduce costs and increase earnings, position the company to grow its cash flow per share by more than 35% from 2017’s level through 2022. That steadily rising cash flow stream will give the company the funds to increase its high-yielding dividend at a 5% to 8% annual rate over that time frame.

In addition to the visible growth the company has seen from those internal initiatives, TerraForm Power also plans to continue making acquisitions. The company completed one large-scale transaction in 2018, buying Spanish wind and solar power company Saeta Yield for $1.2 billion. TerraForm sees the Spanish market as an ideal target for future acquisitions since it can combine new assets with its recently acquired platform in the region. Meanwhile, the company also plans to target investments in Mexico, which it sees as a ripe market for renewables, as well as to continue expanding in the U.S. and Canada. The company finished 2018 with more than $900 million in cash and available credit, which provides it with the financing needed to capture attractive investment opportunities that might emerge.

TerraForm Power believes it has the right formula to create value for investors in the coming years. In the company’s view, the combination of its 7% yielding dividend along with 5% to 8% growth should generate a total return of between 12% to 15% annually. That makes it an ideal stock for income-focused investors.

The largest and cleanest utility: NextEra Energy

NextEra Energy is the world’s largest utility company, which means it not only generates power, it distributes that power directly to customers. NextEra Energy operates two main business units: Florida Power & Light (FPL), which is one of the largest electric utilities in the U.S., and NextEra Energy Resources, the world leader in producing power from the wind and sun. In addition, the company operates a publicly traded subsidiary, NextEra Energy Partners (NYSE:NEP), which acquires, owns, and operates clean energy assets on behalf of NextEra Energy.

FPL distributes electricity and natural gas to roughly 5 million customers in Florida. The company operates several power plants to supply these customers, including natural gas, nuclear, and solar generating facilities. The utility is investing billions of dollars through 2020 to improve the reliability of its operations as well as expand its clean energy generation capacity.

Meanwhile, NextEra Energy Resources is a world leader in generating and transporting clean energy. The entity owns a gigantic portfolio of power plants, with wind producing 69% of its electricity, followed by nuclear at 14%, solar at 11%, oil at 4%, and natural gas at 2%. The company primarily sells this power to other utilities and end users under long-term contracts, which enables it to generate predictable cash flow. In addition to those generation plants, it also has a meaningful natural gas pipeline business, including several operating pipelines — seven of which NextEra Energy Partners owns — as well as one large-scale pipeline under construction and another in development.

Even though it’s already the world’s largest clean energy company, NextEra Energy plans on investing a staggering $40 billion through 2040 to expand its operations. In addition to the investments at FPL, NextEra Energy Resources has a gigantic backlog of projects under way, including building wind farms in the U.S. and Canada, developing additional solar assets in the U.S., repowering several of its wind farms, investing in energy storage projects (where it’s the U.S. leader) and constructing more gas pipelines.

NextEra Energy estimates that these investments will grow its earnings per share at a 12% to 14% annual rate through at least 2020, which should support similar yearly increases in its 2.6%-yielding dividend as of the end of 2018. That high growth rate makes NextEra Energy an ideal stock for growth-focused investors, though its rapidly expanding dividend makes it a compelling option for income-seekers as well.

The emerging LNG giant: Cheniere Energy

Natural gas is a crucial fuel in meeting energy demand while maintaining a cleaner profile. However, while gas is abundant and cheap, it’s not as easily transported to global markets as oil and coal are. That opens the door for companies like Cheniere Energy to build and operate liquified natural gas export facilities that cool natural gas to negative 260 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point it becomes a liquid and can then travel by specialized ship on the open seas to global markets.

Cheniere Energy is currently building two large-scale LNG export facilities along the U.S. Gulf Coast, one in Sabine Pass, LA, and the other in Corpus Christi, TX. The company completed construction on the first phase of Sabine Pass in 2016, which made it the first company to export LNG from the lower 48 states (Alaska has shipped LNG from time to time over the years). The company now has four phases complete at that facility, another expected to start up in early 2019, and a sixth one in development.

In addition to that, Cheniere Energy started commissioning the first two phases of its LNG export facility in Corpus Christi in late 2018, which should become fully operational in early 2019. Cheniere also began construction on the third phase of its Corpus Christi facility in 2018 and should finish it up by the second half of 2021. The company has enough land at that facility to build several additional phases in the future.

Cheniere Energy is on track to become the fifth largest LNG producer in the world by 2020. This output should be highly profitable since the company has secured long-term contracts for about 85% of its anticipated production, which locks in that revenue stream. Because of that, Cheniere is on pace to deliver significant earnings growth over the next couple of years. 

Meanwhile, with significant new LNG supplies needed to meet future demand, the company should be able to continue expanding both its existing sites as well as potentially adding new locations. It could also make other LNG-related investments, such as building new natural gas pipelines and import facilities. Cheniere Energy can finance this growth with its solid balance sheet, which had more than $1 billion in cash at the end of 2018, and its rapidly expanding stream of cash flow. 

What makes Cheniere Energy such a compelling clean energy investment is that it offers significant near-term growth given the phases that should become operational in 2019 as well as substantial long-term upside as it makes additional LNG-related investments. This visible growth and ample future potential make it an ideal option for growth-focused investors.

The cash-rich solar panel maker: First Solar

First Solar designs and manufactures solar panels. However, what sets it apart from rivals is that instead of building traditional solar modules out of polysilicon, First Solar uses a proprietary thin-film technology that enables it to make its panels faster and cheaper than competitors. While its modules aren’t as efficient in generating electricity from the sun as other panels, they offer a better overall value, especially for commercial and industrial uses.

The company entered 2019 in a bit of a transitional phase as it moves toward full-scale production of its Series 6 panel, which is its newest and most efficient module. First Solar aims to phase out its current Series 4 module as it scales up the output of Series 6 by the end of 2020. 

Even though 2019 is a transitional year, First Solar still sees ample growth up ahead. The company unveiled its forecast for 2019 toward the end of 2018, estimating that it should bring in $3.25 billion to $3.45 billion in net sales (up from $2.3 billion to $2.4 billion in 2018) as it ships 5.4 to 5.6 gigawatts (GW) of modules (up from 2.7 to 2.6 GW in 2018). That puts it on track to earn between $2.25 to $2.75 per share, an increase from $1.40 to $1.60 per share in 2018. Backing that view is the large backlog of orders the company booked in the past year, with the solar panel maker ending 2018 with more than 11 GW of modules on order, providing it with solid revenue visibility well past 2019 and muting its exposure to the Trump Administration’s solar tariffs. Meanwhile, First Solar projects that it should end 2019 with $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion in cash, giving it the strongest balance sheet in the sector.

First Solar’s investments in its Series 6 module should enable it to continue growing revenue and earnings at a fast pace beyond 2019. Meanwhile, its top-tier balance sheet gives it the financial strength to continue making investments to expand its operations. That combination of growth potential and balance-sheet strength makes First Solar a lower-risk way for growth-focused investors to invest in solar

These top clean energy stocks could make investors lots of green in 2019

These clean energy stocks share three important characteristics: Each one is highly profitable, has a strong balance sheet, and boasts visible near-term growth prospects. Those factors increase the probability that these companies can generate strong returns for investors in the coming year, which is what makes them ideal clean energy investments for 2019.

Matthew DiLallo owns shares of Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners, First Solar, and TerraForm Power. The Motley Fool recommends First Solar. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

5 Renewable Energy TED Talks To Start Your 2019

2019 is an exciting year for renewable energy. More and more countries and cities are adopting ambitious renewable energy targets and the technology is evolving rapidly. Many of these technologies, such as microgrids and energy storage, could become mainstream technology in the coming years. At this speed of innovation, it is difficult to keep track of all the changes!

Renewable energy concept. Abstract mixed media.Getty

This selection of TED Talks covers some of the most fascinating and promising energy topics for 2019. Be sure to read the 2018 Climate Change Overview and list of Energy Trends To Watch In 2019 before diving into these talks to better understand the impact of these new developments.

1. Accelerating The Shift To Clean Energy, Bill Nussey

Topic: Building local, consumer-driven electricity markets, such as the Brooklyn Microgrid, with renewable energy resources. (2017).

Nussey is an entrepreneur, investor, speaker, clean tech CEO and founder of the Freeing Energy Project.

Solar and batteries are governed by something called Swanson‘s law, which states the more product you manufacture, the cheaper it gets. If we want to unleash society’s most powerful force for change, the irresistible economics of a lower price, we just need to make more and more solar panels and batteries. This is where you come in.  For the first time in energy history, each of us can play a role in creating the future. All we have to do is embrace clean, local energy ourselves. Install solar panels. Purchase community solar. Buy an electric vehicle to drive up the battery volumes. Do business with companies powered by clean energy. Every little thing we do adds up.

2. Batteries Not Included, Marek Kubik

Topic: How energy storage technologies are transforming our approach to electricity generation with renewables. (2018). 

Kubik is an energy and sustainability futurist, Forbes 30 Under 30 Honouree and TEDx speaker.

Solar and wind are already cost-competitive today. The cost of these technologies has fallen to a point where, in many countries, they are already the cheapest forms of electricity generation. And that trend is set to continue.

3. Ground Zero For Global Energy Transition, Justin Locke

Topic: The role of leadership that small islands are taking in developing sustainable energy solutions. (2017).

Locke is a writer and speaker on sustainable energy and the director for the Islands Energy Program at the Rocky Mountain Institute. (See also: Electric Vehicles in Barbados).

Islands have been determined as victims of colonization, occupation and now climate change. But now they are flipping that script and actually providing the solutions to the world’s most difficult challenge: how to combat climate change.

4. A Printable, Flexible, Organic Solar Cell, Hannah Bürckstümmer

Topic: Efficient, flexible organic solar cells that can be printed in any shape to allow the facades of buildings to capture solar from every exposed surface. (2017).

Bürckstümmer has a background in chemistry and a curiosity about our environment, which she has translated into research into third-generation solar cells and work on the strategy and marketing for organic photovoltaics.

This is pointing towards a future where buildings are no longer energy consumers, but energy providers. I want to see solar cells seamlessly integrated into our building shells to be both resource-efficient and a pleasure to look at. To exploit the potential of all facades and other areas, organic photovoltaics can offer a significant contribution, and they can be made in any form architects and planners will want them to.

5. The Thrilling Potential For Off-Grid Solar Energy, Amar Inamdar

Topic: How the factors of distributed generation– lower costs, infrastructure and decentralization- are revolutionizing the energy market, to the benefit of the environment. (2017).

Inamdar works with businesses and entrepreneurs to imagine, create and grow markets that address our biggest social and environmental challenges.

We aspire towards energy access for everybody, and we aspire towards a fully-functioning low-carbon economy. And we’re getting to the point where we’re seeing the fully-functioning low-carbon economy is not just about getting people onto the grid, it’s about getting people onto electricity and doing it in a way that’s really dignified.

What’s Next?

To learn more about the latest energy trends, you should read the 2018 Climate Change Overview and list of Energy Trends To Watch In 2019. Stay tuned for another selection of TED Talks in February with a focus on the latest science and action combating global climate change.