Renewable energy stocks were all the rage last year. This year, however, not so much, with clean energy funds taking hits of between 25 and 50 percent. Will President Joe Biden’s proposed $2.25 trillion infrastructure bill breathe new life into this sector?
Biden ran on a platform that included the build-out of an infrastructure plan that would “achieve net-zero emissions, economywide, by no later than 2050.” By the time of his November election, investors had bid up the clean energy sector — it includes everything from electric cars and clean water to solar and wind power — by over 200 percent in some cases.
New renewable energy exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds were offered with names like “Tan” and “Fan” that were snapped up in anticipation that they could only go higher. Of course, like all mini-manias, prices failed to keep up with investors' expectations. Markets moved on to buying “reopening trades” like dirty, old oil stocks, airlines and cruise ships.
However, on Wednesday, Biden unveiled some of the details of his multitrillion-dollar infrastructure plan. In addition to programs to upgrade the nation’s schools and spend $580 billion in job training and R&D, the plan should benefit many companies in the clean energy sector.
About $621 billion will go toward physical improvements to roads, bridges, public transit, ports, airports and electric vehicles. An additional $300 billion is earmarked for improving drinking water infrastructure, expanding broadband access and upgrading electric grids.
Included in that spending will be energy-efficient affordable housing, electric vehicle charging stations, as well as potential extensions in government tax credits that would benefit the solar and hydropower industries.
Congress has already extended the investment tax credit used for residential and commercial solar projects at the current rate of 26 percent for two years in 2020, as part of the $2.3 trillion spending and coronavirus relief bill. If the clean energy lobbyists get what they want, it could mean billions of dollars for solar, wind, clean energy storage and other industries, from electric vehicles to pollution controls, that would decarbonize our environment.
Allied Market Research, an expert in this area, forecasts that the global clean energy market will be worth $1.5 trillion by 2025. There is an array of companies to choose from; in fact, so many that the average investor may have a hard time making investment decisions. However, fear not, because there are many exchange-traded funds that do the work for you.
Some funds that are available include the IShares Global Clean Energy ETF (ICLN), the Invesco WilderHill Clean Energy ETF (PBW), and the ALPS Clean Energy ETF (ACES). There are also some more focused funds, such as the Invesco Solar ETF (Tan) and the First Trust Global Wind Energy ETF (Fan).
Although Biden’s infrastructure plan should be good news for Americans, and the economy is far from a done deal, his plan to raise corporate taxes to 28 percent from 21 percent, and to establish a global minimum tax for multinational corporations to ensure they pay at least 21 percent (up from 13 percent) in taxes in any country, won’t sit well with Republicans and many others on Wall Street.
I expect there will be a lot of horse trading in the weeks and months ahead before a final agreement is reached and passed. But if it is, some of the prime beneficiaries should be the clean energy companies.