Renewables Analyst Calls 1Q 09 The Bottom

liebreich_michael0New Energy Finance CEO Michael Liebreich gave Renewable Energy Financial Forum (REFF) participants an informative presentation to the hundreds of financial leaders filling New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria.

Based on his firm’s research, he called the first quarter of 2009 the bottom for renewable energy finance. He doesn’t say we are in euphoric times, but does believe renewables are poised to reach record growth again within a few quarters.

Based on their recent data, New Energy Finance predicts second quarter finance to be about double first quarter numbers and back to 2007 numbers at ~$25 billion. His slides showed a projection that US wind grows faster than any year except the record 2008. He also predicts stimulus funds will begin to help the efficiency and renewable energy sector in the late second half of 2009.

All conference speakers acknowledge that the recessionary times continue to be difficult for renewable energy. Liebreich even called 2009 the year of ramen noodle meals before spectacular growth in 2010.

On the price side, Liebreich echoed others’ emphasis on the silver lining of our recession: lower prices. For wind, turbine prices should begin to fall significantly in late 2009 and early 2010. And the solar story is much more dramatic – with module prices set to decline more than 40% this year.

Many speakers are excited about the prospect for public perception of clean energy to change from expensive to cost-competitive. For instance, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive is using financing to make new residential solar installations a cost-saving move for homeowners in California and Arizona. And the further reduction of solar module prices in the months ahead should make financing more available and help SolarCity grow capacity to reduce its eight-month long waiting list.

Hannon Armstrong’s CEO Jeff Eckel spoke this morning about renewable price reduction aligning the stars for an amazing 2010. Other panelists agree that the year will bring record growth in US wind and solar power, with deployment breaking 10 GW and 1 GW for the first time, respectively.

Liebreich projects that most of the federal ARRA stimulus money will flow in 2010. This means the money meant to spur economic recovery may not emerge until recovery is already upon us. But this fact was presented as a reality more than a complaint. Conference panelists are sharing great appreciation for the government support that exists, calling today an unprecedented policy environment.

So, while REFF participants concede that the recessionary hurt lingers, Liebreich makes the encouraging call that the first quarter of 2009 was the bottom for the renewable energy sector. The good news of lower prices for renewables and federal stimulus support in late 2009 and 2010 signal an upcoming boom for the sector in the quarters ahead.

I’ll keep you updated on further insight as the conference continues and beyond.

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