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Fund manager Pascal Schuler of Swisscanto, the Swiss banking joint venture has asserted his belief that renewable stock will offer the best return for investors in the post financial crisis climate, certainly when compared against fossil fuel investments. Speaking specifically about the Swisscanto Fund Green Invest Equity, Schuler commented that portfolios based on traditional fossil fuel energy such as natural gas, coal and petro-chemicals would prove to be unsustainable within the next 20 years.

Schuler believes that the combination of fossil fuel degradation along with the global move towards renewable energy in light of international carbon reduction treaties will give green stocks a sustainability which will be robust against market fluctuations.

“Water, solar and wind energy are areas where we invest in the long-term, as there is an over-average growth potential when financing kicks off again. Banks will prefer them when they start lending,” commented Schuler who sees green stocks as a healthy, high yield option.

Investors will be attracted to renewable sectors in countries where there is comprehensive legislation in place to protect investment and ensure a long-term viability for capital injected into new, renewable technology. Many governments have introduced feed-in tariffs as a way of attracting investment by offering long-term contracts to renewable investors with a fixed, premium rate guaranteed for any megawatts fed-in to the national grid. Certainly in Germany, this particular system of tariffs has been an extremely successful way of offsetting the cost of generating electricity by renewable means rather than by traditional fossil fuel methods. Many inside the industry will be hoping for a similar system to be introduced in the UK in 2010 but until then Germany has proved to be a hotbed of green technology especially in regards to photovoltaic (PV) technology.

The Swisscanto green fund, worth around $205 million has already taken an interest in German renewable stock and is looking to build its portfolio in the German PV sector. The fund has plans to invest in German renewable sector companies SolarWorld, SMA and Wacker Chemie and will certainly look elsewhere once other countries have strong legislation in place to kick-start the renewable energy industry.

Schuler finished by saying, “We will continue to invest in this segment but focus on companies which have a strong balance sheet and are able to survive this crisis.”

As a solution to the global economic crisis, Gordon Brown has called for an international ‘Green New Deal’ in order to spark investment in new technologies and create jobs in the emerging renewable sector. In reference to F.D. Roosevelt’s economic plan to revitalise the US economy during the Great Depression the Prime Minister explained that he believes striving to evolve the UK in to a low carbon economy will create jobs while at the same time help the government to meet its climate change targets.

The British government has already set the target of an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 and have taken some measures to instigate this reduction. Overseeing this gradual change towards a low carbon economy will be the Secretary of State for the Department for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Milliband. The minister has already advocated government investment in renewable energy technology and research and was a key figure behind last November’s Energy Act which set out the main provisions for government funding for green energy and paved the way for the implementation of a feed-in tariff in 2010.

Despite these changes, some environmental lobbies and members of the renewable industry have criticized the government for not providing enough funding for green projects and not setting out a concrete breakdown of the feed-in tariff which will be necessary to attract investment as it has done for example in Germany. Spokesman for Friends for the Earth, Andy Atkins summed up the frustration in certain circles by commenting,

“We need urgent and decisive action, not more token gestures and hot air.”

Gordon Brown is confident that the green sector will provide some relief to the recession in the jobs that it creates, not just in the UK but globally and he was keen to make this point last week at a summit in London. The prime minister produced the results of an independent report which states that the renewable energy sector will generate around 400,000 new jobs within the next 8 years meaning that by 2017 1.3 million people will be involved in the renewable sector in the UK.

During his historic visit to Washington last week for his meeting with US President Barack Obama, Brown stated that it was imperative both for the economy and the environment that changes are made to the way governments approach renewable funding stating,

“We know that the more we are able to co-ordinate these measures internationally, the more confidence and certainty we will build and the more investment we will be able to bring forward.  That’s why I want to create a global ‘green new deal’ that will pave the way for a low-carbon recovery and to help us build tomorrow’s green economy today.”

Key to this shift towards a low carbon economy is the feed-in tariff which has already proved extremely successful where it has been implemented elsewhere. Members of the industry have already expressed the need for a tariff which is more than a token gesture and is able to attract investors through coherent, long term, viable contracts. Some have suggested that a rate of 50p per unit of kWh energy fed-in to the grid by renewable systems under 5 Megawatts would be sufficient to help Britain catch up with nations such as Germany where feed-in tariffs are now well established. The feed-in tariff rate is crucial as it will offset the cost of producing energy by renewable means by offering investors long term contracts with fixed rates for their megawatts production.

Andy Atkins of Friends of the Earth, regarding the summit and the need for government action on tariffs and project funding added,

“Today’s summit is an encouraging development, but ministers must grasp the scale of the challenge we face. We need urgent and decisive action, not more token gestures and hot air”.

Jim Mellon, the financier who predicted the current world financial crisis two years before it happened has given his weighty support to solar energy as both a means of replacing fossil fuels and of creating healthy yields for investors. In a recent rich list compiled by The Times newspaper, they made special mention of entrepreneurs who have branched out in to renewable investment. Among these, Jim Mellon features highly because of his reputation as a man with a track record of forecasting market trends twinned with a portfolio of shrewd investments.

Mellon, based in the Isle of Man and with a net worth of around £500m is established as one of the largest employers on the island and although some of his assets have come under pressure from the international financial crisis, he continues to look towards renewables as the future.

Jim Mellon was quoted in The Times as saying,

“Solar is genuinely clean, it ticks all sorts of zeitgeist boxes. Within five years, solar power will be as cheap as oil and gas without the subsidy,” adding that, “It will be bigger than the internet in five years”

Mellon backed up his words last summer by investing in a mining company called Emerging Metals which focuses on metals used in the manufacture of the latest photovoltaic technology. It is believed that in 2010, with the introduction of the feed-in tariff in the UK, there will be a boom in solar investment as the government will guarantee premium rates for megawatts generated by small solar and other renewable producers. Leading entrepreneurs on the rich list have already made this connection and are starting to back renewables before they boom.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Center for Alternative Technology (CAT), the majority of British households would consider adopting photovoltaic technology with 90 per cent saying that they would consider and 23 per cent saying that they would definitely adopt the technology in their homes. From the 750 homes which were surveyed, the results show a shift in general public opinion towards the practical application of renewable technology, especially if it is something which proves to be financially viable in the long term.

The long term financial viability of all small-scale renewable projects hinges largely on the upcoming Feed-in tariff, likely to be introduced in 2010. The principle of the tariff is to offset the expense of producing power by non-fossil fuel means and provide incentives to those wishing to invest in renewable plant such as photovoltaic technology. The fixed rate for megawatts fed-in to the national grid by small scale renewable power producers is paid for by existing power companies who are obliged by the government to buy the renewable megawatts, the cost of which is spread across the consumers.

The survey noted that this high potential take up of PV technology would be dependent on the feed-in tariff paying 50p per unit of energy supplied in to the grid. In Germany, this exact system of tariffs has been used successfully to make Germany one of the worlds leaders both in terms of PV technology adoption and public awareness of greener energy production.

CAT spokesman, Mark Watson commented,

“Photovoltaic systems are one of the easiest renewable energy technologies to integrate in towns and cities and as the survey results show, they are generally liked by the general public.”