The 5 Most Important Forecasts of 2008 – #1 President-elect Obama On the US Power Grid

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Get ready to make some notes on which energy investments should do well in 2009 and beyond based on what leading experts forecast in 2008 – predictions that have gone largely unnoticed by the rest of the media in the crush of the global credit crisis.

#1 – President-elect Obama, in a cable TV interview on MSNBC on the eve of his election, saying, “One of, I think, the most important infrastructure projects that we need is a whole new electricity grid. Because if we’re going to be serious about renewable energy, I want to be able to get wind power from North Dakota to population centers, like Chicago. And we’re going to have to have a smart grid if we want to use plug-in hybrids, then we want to be able to have ordinary consumers sell back the electricity that’s generated from those car batteries, back into the grid. That can create five million new jobs, just in new energy.”

Any longtime energy investor reading this statement can only say, “Wow!” In a matter of seconds, Obama has referenced two multi-billion-dollar investment opportunities that he says will be at the top of his list: energy “storage” and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

The first is what will be needed to connect solar, wind and other green power sources into a grid whose stability already is less than desirable. Technologies competing for dominance in power grid energy storage applications include: lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries, flywheels and ultracapacitors. Based on Obama’s statement, companies such as Beacon Power (flywheels), Enersys (lead-acid batteries), Ener1 (li-ion batteries) and Maxwell Technologies (ultracaps) all could see their fortunes improve.

At the same time, it’s clear the US President-elect wants to push for more wind and solar development, which bodes well generally for both of these large energy sub-sectors.

Still, the “Wow!” factor in Obama’s statement comes from his understanding and recognition of the importance of so-called “vehicle-to-grid” technology (V-2-G). That’s stunning because even many clean tech experts have only a dim understanding of V-2-G.

V-2-G requires having a “smart” (meaning computer-controlled) power grid capable of two-way energy delivery. In Obama’s mind, the grid won’t just be capable of supplying the electric fuel for PHEVs. It will also be capable of drawing the power stored in the batteries of millions of PHEVs back into the grid, thereby providing an on-demand back-up power source that not only will stabilize the grid and prevent blackouts, but will also serve to enhance America’s national security by being a completely decentralized source of power.

Thus has Obama signaled his intention to fully support electrified transportation, which could be a boom for some of the same battery manufacturers listed above, as well as for a bevy of car manufacturers and computer software developers such as IBM.

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