Green Money: Put Your Money Where Your Values Are

Make money by investing in renewable energy -- how to battle the fall of the U.S. dollar.


| July/August 2005


Blowin’ in the Wind

Q With energy prices soaring and the planet heating up, energy conservation and clean technologies such as solar and wind will continue to grow in popularity. There must be ways to make some money by investing in renewable energy. Can you help me put my money where my heart is?

John
Saddle Ridge, New Jersey

A Renewable energy is making great strides, and savvy investors are paying attention. Globally, wind-power generation has been growing at a snappy 25 percent per year. A new report in The Progressive Investor (www.SustainableBusiness.com) forecasts 40 percent growth in the solar energy sector in 2005. Clean Edge (www.CleanEdge.com) anticipates the market for renewable energy growing from $7 billion now to more than $82 billion by 2010.

The stock market is one way to invest in this trend. Many socially responsible mutual funds screen for issues such as global warming and renewable energy, and some make this a major focus. The New Alternatives Fund has been doing this since 1982. Portfolio 21 is a global fund focused on sustainability, and the Winslow Green Growth fund focuses on small companies. (Links to these can be found at www.NaturalInvesting.com.)

If you’re not in a financial position to gamble on risky small-company stocks, there are other ways to make profitable investments. For example, can you name a small investment (under $10) that can return as much as 12 percent per year, tax free? Answer: the light bulbs in your house! A December 2001 study in Home Power magazine (www.HomePower.com) analyzed the payback from replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, costing $8.99 each. They consume one-fourth the electricity of incandescent bulbs and last ten times longer. Depending on your electricity rates and how much you use your lights, you may earn far more this way than with any stock market investment. Installing energy-efficient windows and insulation and solar hot-water heat or buying a fuel-saving vehicle also generate financial and environmental returns.

Another way to make a difference is to change where you do your banking. Many community banks, credit unions, and loan funds promote energy effi­ciency. Perhaps the leading example is the Permaculture Credit Union (www.PCUOnline.org). Its Sustainability Discount Program makes discounted loans for home energy-efficiency upgrades and renewable-energy production. You may also want to contact ShoreBank Pacific’s EcoDeposits program (www.Eco-Bank.com). Both institutions offer insured, market-level interest on savings. Also check out www.CommunityInvest.org for information about energy-related programs.





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