It is always interesting that at any VC conference featuring an array of different investing verticals, the “clean power” and “alternative energy” sessions usually generate the smallest audience. Folks always seem to migrate to a software or hardware forum.
This came to mind when I read that Canada’s ice shelves have shrunk 90% over the past 100 years, despite having been on the planet for thousands of years. In humans, sudden weight loss is a sure sign of serious illness.
I’m not the first to make this point, but I think the planet is trying to tell us something. As an investing trend, many a fund has been plundered by the idea that there will soon be a dramatic shift in how we travel, heat our homes, and power our factories.
Ballard Power went public about a decade ago, and is trading below the $8 IPO price. Stuart Energy went away, having never traded up a day in its short life. Fuel Cell Technolgies went t.u. The ethanol guys cannot yet explain why it takes a much energy to create and move that commodity around as it saves as a fuel additive. Bennett Environmental can’t find enough tainted soil to put through their facilities.
Fascinating. For all the pending need for alternative energies and environmental technologies, most investors (retail and institutional) have lost their shirts on the sector.
But let’s not ignore the simple fact that despite these losses, the investment thesis has likely improved with the passage of time. Just think what the investion of the light bulb did for General Electric. And that ice shelf is a reminder, albeit a distant one, that we are hurtling towards a global threat (if not crisis) that hasn’t been seen for generations.