A Cheap Stock Holds Key to a 'Green' Future
By David Sterman
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The global energy picture is changing so fast that it's getting hard to keep up. In just the last five years, we've seen:
If there's one thing for sure, it's that more neck-snapping moves in the global energy market will take place anew in the next few years. And investors will need to be prepared to act accordingly.
The rush to embrace wind and solar power now seems to have been a bit hasty. Key countries such as Germany and Italy have radically cut spending in this area and, for investors, solar- and wind-power stocks have been duds anyway because supply overwhelmed demand and pricing plunged.
Yet it's abundantly clear that in the future, the world will have to do more with less. Demand for energy will only rise, and the supply of energy may not keep pace. We'll have no choice but to make more judicious use of the power we have. Electric utilities are just now starting to take steps to enhance the efficiency of their networks, looking at ways to serve more customers without building more power plants.
This, in a nutshell, is the premise behind a "smart grid."
By adding a degree of intelligence to their systems, utilities can more effectively monitor and control power-consumption patterns. And though a number of companies seek ways to profit from this niche, only one has a longstanding track record and the products that can help utilities "get smart."
I'm talking about Echelon(ELON) , a company that has been around for more than 20 years and has already seen several spurts of growth on the heels of major utility contracts. Right now, its stock is near 10-year lows, as growth has slowed in a constrained global economy. But the steps are in place for a solid rebound in sales -- and the lagging share price.
Hard Slog to Current Lows
Shares of Echelon, which currently trade below $5, changed hands for $80 back in 2000. At the time, the company was in the midst of completing a huge contract with Italy's electric utility Eni (E) .