Japan Crisis Drives Speculation in Energy Sectors


"Renewable energy shares rose Tuesday while most energy stocks fell."

Solar and wind energy shares have risen this week on the public markets as a result of the unfolding nuclear crisis in Japan and investor speculation. "Shares in renewable energy industries yesterday rose while most other energy stocks fell," Clare Brook, fund manager of green investment group WHEB told the Guardian. "This tragedy comes on top of the oil price rise, BP's disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and unrest in the Middle East, all of which has made renewables more attractive. We would expect investment in renewables, especially solar, to increase. Nuclear has become politically unacceptable," she said.

However, the solar sector could suffer from disruptions in Japan, according to Piper Jaffray Analyst Ahmar Zaman, who notes that the nation accounts for 2 GW of capacity across the polysilicon, wafer, cell and module sectors.

"We believe lower demand in Japan will result in Japanese module suppliers looking to place more product in the rest of the world - that will pressure prices (ASPs) in 2011," Zaman wrote on Tuesday. But a drop off in poly production in Japan would tighten global supply, which could counterbalance that.

Despite renewed interest in solar in the U.S. over the last year, the industry has been struggling to overcome increasing costs and a dwindling slice of the total generation pie.

The latest issue of the Electric Power Monthly, with full-year data for 2010 US power generation, reveals that nuclear's share of net electrical generation dropped from 20.22% in 2009 to 19.59% in 2010. Meanwhile, non-hydropower renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) increased 16.5% over 2009 and provided 4.08% of net U.S. electrical generation.

Renewables, including hydropower, accounted for 10.32% of net electrical generation. During 2010, solar increased 45.8%, wind by 28.1%, geothermal by 4.4% and biomass by 3.7%.

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