I was Wrong…

I was wrong about oil & gas innovation:

I will come out cleanly and admit it: I was wrong.  I remember two or three years ago I was writing about how high gas prices are the new norm.  While this may be the general trend over a very long time span, I believe the level of ingenuity and innovation in the oil sector recently is astounding.  In response to a global supply glut, shale oil drillers have responded accordingly by tightening their operations.  What we thought of as an industry that required 90 or 100 dollar/barrel prices to survive, is now learning how to be profitable at 50 to 60 dollars/barrel.  A mixture of both newer generation rigs and maximizing efficiency on many different fronts has allowed this industry to stay afloat in an era of excess global supply.  The shale oil drillers in America have made their message clear that they plan to compete with the low-cost Saudis and Kuwaitis.

Please read an article here for further information:

https://next.ft.com/content/f363e688-dbe4-11e5-9ba8-3abc1e7247e4

Am I still right about the renewable energy movement?

My optimism about renewable energy has been muffled in recent years because I believe that sustained, profitable growth for these companies will be very difficult.  For being part of the so-called “energy revolution,” renewable sources are mostly unprofitable and dependent on non-renewable grid structures and sustenance.  Many solar companies are growing, but not profiting.  Now, the one exception that I know of is First Solar, a company that has posted solid profits over the last three years and has continued to drive lower cost structure through polycrystalline solar panel production.  Polycrystalline cells are inferior to monocrystalline cells, but have lower production costs.  Despite that, First Solar is an outlier in the industry.

Renewable energy needs to develop without the influence of government subsidies and regulation.  Under the current structure, capital is misallocated to projects that are unprofitable without subsidies and net metering.  Solar companies have attempted to extend financing to low-income buyers through power purchase agreements that use base-load power from the existing grid structure.  The cost of purchase does not accurately reflect the price of solar energy to these buyers.  The growth of solar would be much richer and healthier without those subsidies and poor pricing signals to buyers.  The market for wealthy homeowners who want to live “off the grid” should not be underestimated.  Not only is it a clean form of energy, but it has value in case geopolitical conflicts, economic crises or unprecedented natural disasters take place.

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