Biofuels are liquid transportation fuels including biodiesel and ethanol. These fuels are derived from a range of biomass sources, including sugar cane, corn, barley, rapeseed, soybean oil or cellulose. The International Energy Administration projects that the worldwide use of oil in transport will nearly double between 2000 and 2030, which also will lead to an incremental increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Biofuels, such as ethanol, biodiesel, and other liquid and gaseous fuels, offer an important alternative to petroleum and help reduce atmospheric pollution.
The solar sector covers all technologies that capture energy either directly from the sun, using a photo-voltaic (PV) material, or via a passive technology such as a concentrator or sterling engine. The solar energy sector is already substantial in the EU and Japan. Cost reductions since solar energy came onto the scene in the 1970's are expected to stimulate U.S. solar energy demand.
Wind is the alternative source with the biggest impact on our energy usage patterns over the past decade. The next decade will see continued activity, particularly in developing countries and offshore. The wind sector includes components and subassemblies for wind turbines as well as manufacturers of turbines themselves. A major part of this sector, however, is the various developers, generators, utilities and engineering firms that have emerged to exploit opportunities to build wind farms around the world.
The hydrogen sector covers everything from the production and storage of hydrogen, through its distribution, and the various technologies and applications in which it can be used. Hydrogen is not a alternative fuel source - it is only a carrier of energy, in the same way electricity is not a source but a carrier of power. Hydrogen looks like a promising candidate to replace fossil fuels in transport over a 15-30 year period. Governments and corporations are investing accordingly.
Many observers believe that fuel cells will lie at the heart of any post-fossil energy architecture. Although fuel cells have been around for 150 years and their performance is proven, high manufacturing costs and low reliability indicate they have yet to capture market share. Numerous research initiatives are in place to change the market share over the coming decade. Mont Vista Capital draws a distinction between the hydrogen industry and the fuel cell sector; fuel cells can burn a variety of hydrocarbon fuels, and hydrogen can be used by other systems, such as internal combustion engines. There is, however, substantial crossover between the two sectors.
This sector entails production and consumption of solid and gaseous fuels derived from biomass. Solid biomass can include a number of specially-grown crops, such as elephant grass or coppiced willow, but it can also consist of crop residues such as straw. We include in this sector processors of other waste matter for energy generation, such as sewage waste, chemical by-products and biogas produced from municipal waste, and wood waste biomass from our national forests. Increasingly we are seeing developers, generators and utilities enter this sector.
This sector covers technologies that, although they relate to the current energy infrastructure and not necessarily to alternative energy sources, result in improved energy efficiency or a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Important technologies in this sector include software to improve electricity demand or grid management, as well as breakthroughs in electrical generator design. We also include in this sector those companies whose operations affect the energy marketplace, for example, green energy power brokers and carbon exchanges.
Passive energy-saving technologies may not strictly be part of the alternative energy industry, but these technologies are highly relevant to investors in alternative energy. Shifts in our sources of energy over the coming 20 years must be accompanied by improvement in our energy efficiency. This sector covers a range of technologies that reduce the use of energy in retail and commercial buildings, including “green” building technologies that reduce energy use.