Tom Konrad

Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA, is a policy wonk and investment analyst writer focused on clean energy. He writes about Clean Energy policy and economics at Clean Energy Wonk and Clean Energy investing at Alt Energy Stocks.

Community solar gardens

A new bill being considered in the Colorado legislature would create “solar gardens.” Solar gardens allow people to participate financially in owning part of a solar array even if they do not have a suitable site on their own property. My reading of the proposed legislation is that subscriptions in a solar garden would be financial securities, and fall under securities laws. That’s probably a good thing. Solar for everyone Solar panels are elitist: They cost a lot of money, and only homeowners with good solar access can usefully install them. This means that renters and people who can’t come …

The Nitrogen-Biochar Link

  by Tom Konrad, Ph.D. Promoters of Biochar should ally with fishermen and other groups concerned about ocean dead zones caused by nitrogen runoff. The folks at the Carbon War Room are trying to save the world by tackling the trickiest problems in addressing climate change.  One of their current focus points is biochar [pdf].  I’m one of very few investment writers who has taken notice of biochar so far, and they called me to ask what I thought needed to be done to bring in private investment dollars.  Getting investors interested in biochar is going to be tricky.  The …

Is there a tradeoff between economics and the environment?

This article was first published on Clean Energy Wonk. California’s RETI process lends insight into the near-term prospects of solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass.   In September, California’s Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI) released their Phase 2A report, which outlined potential transmission corridors to collect renewable energy from Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) that had been identified in previous phases. As part of Phase 2A, they also screened each CREZ for environmental impact, and the potential difficulty of obtaining land for renewable energy development.   I previously looked at the results from Phase 1A and gained some insight into the cost of …

‘Heretic’ battles straw man

Energy Self-Reliant States [PDF], a flawed study on local Renewable Energy availability from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ISLR) found that 18 of the 50 states could not meet their electricity needs with local renewables. In fact, no state can meet its electricity demand through local renewables without expensive electricity storage. On a national basis, such storage would cost an estimated $13 trillion, or over 65 times the cost of the transmission investments they oppose. One of the study authors, John Farrell, has been promoting the study as a “Heresy on Transmission.” Rather than a heretic attacking misguided establishment shibboleths, …

Green jobs: debunking the debunkers

Energy markets are neither free nor efficient, so traditional economic arguments against regulation and other government interventions do not apply.  In response to my recent article digging into green jobs, a reader sent me a copy of a March paper by Andrew Morriss et al at University of Illinois that attempts to debunk green jobs myths.  While I see major flaws in most green jobs papers I read, many of the myths cited by this paper are irrelevant to what I consider the most important questions: Can government intervention to clean up the energy sector create jobs and boost the …

Not all green jobs are created equal

The stimulus package and the climate bill recently passed by the US House and now being considered in the Senate will create jobs while delivering a boost to our economy. A “green” stimulus will create approximately three times as many jobs as the same amount of spending in traditional energy industries. But clean energy is too diverse to consider a single industry. What are the differential jobs creation effects of different types of clean energy and are the most effective sectors getting the most money? In my next Greener Money column for Smart Energy Living Magazine, I look into the …

Making the grade

The candidates on clean energy

Politicians will always have an influence on the stock market, through regulation, tax policy, incentives, and more. This truism is only more certain in energy policy, where electricity markets and transport are highly regulated and the next administration is widely expected to enact some sort of carbon regulation, if not a tax. This weekend, I heard the head of the Colorado Governor's Energy Office speak on what the state administration is doing on energy policy (PDF). Our current governor, Bill Ritter, ran on a three-part platform: working to fix Colorado's healthcare, transportation, and energy policies. Last year, the administration mostly focused on energy, and although healthcare and transportation will get more attention this year, there are already several energy bills on the legislative slate. This is because "Nobody is certain what to do about transportation or health care, but we do know what to do about Energy." This scenario may also be familiar to residents of California. Since we do know what to do about energy, do the remaining U.S. presidential candidates? From the news coverage, I have to admit I'm far from certain. My impression has been that most of the Democrats and John McCain among the Republicans have been talking a good game, but repeated mentions of potentially problematic technologies and policies such as "clean coal," biofuels, carbon cap-and-trade, nuclear power, and even coal to liquids, leave me wondering if even the best of intentions might lead to bungled energy policy. If I were president ...

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