Plenty on offer for keen green investors
LOOKING for a carbon- related company to invest in? Take your pick. But the problem is making the right pick. Environmentfriendly technologies sound all well and good, but many have failed to produce the profits that would satisfy investors.
Solar and wind power involve technologies that are still comparatively highcost. Sequestration is a worthy ambition but not yet a hugely remunerative one. Considering the huge profits from such ‘‘ dirty’’ industries as mining iron ore and coal, carbon- related investment involves trust rather than record.
There are the obvious vehicles, such as companies that have renewable energy projects. Production of either wind or solar energy does not emit carbon dioxide, so investors could look at companies such as CBD Energy, which is working with Hydro Tasmania to build renewable capacity on King Island.
This will consist of photovoltaic solar units, an expanded wind farm to generate between 1.5 megawatts and 2.5MW, and energy storage. When finished, King Island will be largely self- sufficient in electricity, replacing 1.25 million litres of diesel used for generation.
On a much larger scale there is Babcock & Brown Wind Partners, which has interests in 76 wind farms in Australia, Germany, the US, Spain, France and Portugal — a total installed capacity of approximately 3187MW.
Even the traditional- style energy companies are getting in on the carbon reduction business, offering customers green energy alternatives.
Origin Energy has taken an option with a wind generation company to develop up to 590MW of wind farms, starting with a 300MW plant near Cullerin, 30km west of the NSW city of Goulburn. This farm, when completed, will save about 100,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year had that power been generated from fossil fuels.
The concept of a carbon- friendly company would be widened if the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association gets its way. The industry association says greater use of natural gas would help Australia meet its carbon obligations now that we have signed the Kyoto Protocol.
Chief executive Belinda Robinson says something has to be done about policies such as the federal approvals processes for liquefied natural gas projects, which can take as long as five years. ‘‘ If we are to achieve real, meaningful and deep cuts as articulated by the Government,’’ said Robinson, ‘‘ gas needs to be unshackled to allow it to reach its full potential.’’
So, if greater use of gas is part of the effort to reduce carbon emissions, then investors have a wide array of producers and explorers from which to choose.
If energy isn’t your thing, you could have subscribed to the initial public offering for LeeDee Holdings, a company that makes biodegrable wrap for food packaging. The clear wrap is not made from petroleum products as is the norm, but from cotton pulp.
Last month, Green Invest managed to get its $ 4 million IPO away and is now traded on the Australian Securities Exchange. The company has two main arms: Nextgen, which acts as a carbon broker, and Green Plumbers, founded in 2005 by the Master Plumbers and Mechanical Services Association of Australia to provide installation services for products that save water.
And then there are some 200 companies listed on the ASX that have uranium exploration or development in their portfolio.
Geothermal is a more obvious carbonfriendly way to generate electricity, although the sector still has to prove itself as both viable and a profit maker.
But investors who put their money into biofuel floats have seen their equity shrivel before their eyes. According to Renewable Fuels Australia, the biodiesel sector is on its knees: there were nine planned plants in Australia and all but two have been put in mothballs.