Renewable energy, energy independence and alternative energy sources were key talking points during the 2008 presidential election. Moving into 2009, President-elect Obama's plan for investing $150 million over the next 10 years into clean energy may help companies that can limit the use of fossil fuels to create renewable energy become the stars of the new year.

In this article we'll examine the top renewable energy players that are likely to benefit from the march toward a clean energy future.

Energy from Waste
Solar, wind and bio-fuels tend to capture the biggest spotlight, but the ingenious concept of creating energy from waste is the mission being carried out by Covanta Holdings (NYSE:CVA). Burning garbage instead of fossil fuels to produce electricity reduces greenhouse gases, lowers the risk of groundwater contamination, conserves land by reducing the need for methane producing landfills, and it reduces the dependence on fossil fuels for energy needs. Every year, Covanta converts 16 million tons of waste into 8 million megawatt hours of clean renewable electricity. That's equivalent to nearly 13% of the electricity supplied by Con Edison (NYSE:ED) to its customers in New York last year. In addition to the 48 energy generation facilities it owns or has an equity stake in the U.S., there are 10 others split between the Americas, Europe and Asia. Covanta is continuing to acquire additional energy generation facilities in the U.S. while exploring development possibilities around the globe.

Energy from Methane
Waste Management
(NYSE:WMI), operator of one of the largest networks of landfills in the U.S. with 300 sites, uses the methane gas from its locations to create electricity. Waste Management is currently supplying enough landfill gas to provide electricity for approximately 400,000 homes a year. That's enough energy to replace the use of nearly 2 million tons of coal per year. Waste Management's primary business is still the collection, transfer, recycling and disposal of waste, but waste-to-energy services are growing in importance to the business as federal and state regulators implement renewable energy programs. As the provider of an essential service the fallout in the financial markets has not had a major impact on Waste Management's business, but the sluggish construction industry and a slowdown in business and consumer spending could translate into less consumption and waste production in 2009.

Energy from the Earth
Ormat Technologies
(NYSE:ORA) produces renewable geothermal energy by focusing on power from the earth's core and from wasted energy produced from industrial equipment. Ormat's method of creating electricity from geothermal resources can be a viable alternative over fossil fuels in an environment where prices for natural gas and oil are rising. Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) that mandate states generate an increasing percentage of their electricity from renewable sources also give legs to the likelihood of an increased usage of geothermal energy. Thirty-three states, including renewable energy leader like California, already have RPS goals in place. (To learn more about renewable energy investments, be sure to read our Green Investing Special Feature.)

Final Thoughts
Obama's energy plan specifically calls for 10% of the countries electricity to originate from renewable sources by 2012, and 25% by 2025. The technology capable of producing the most energy for the lowest cost will likely be the outright winner, but like any good investment portfolio, a renewable energy portfolio should contain a combination of multiple renewable energy providers.

For other green industry ideas, check out Top 10 Green Industries.

Related Articles
  1. Investing

    How to Ballast a Portfolio with Bonds

    If January and early February performance is any guide, there’s a new normal in financial markets today: Heightened volatility.
  2. Stock Analysis

    Performance Review: Emerging Markets Equities in 2015

    Find out why emerging markets struggled in 2015 and why a half-decade long trend of poor returns is proving optimistic growth investors wrong.
  3. Investing News

    Today's Sell-off: Are We in a Margin Liquidation?

    If we're in market liquidation, is it good news or bad news? That party depends on your timeframe.
  4. Investing News

    Bank Stocks: Time to Buy or Avoid? (WFC, JPM, C)

    Bank stocks have been pounded. Is this the right time to buy or should they be avoided?
  5. Stock Analysis

    Why the Bullish Are Turning Bearish

    Banks are reducing their targets for the S&P 500 for 2016. Here's why.
  6. Stock Analysis

    How to Find Quality Stocks Amid the Wreckage

    Finding companies with good earnings and hitting on all cylinders in this environment, although possible, is not easy.
  7. Investing News

    What You Can Learn from Carl Icahn's Mistakes

    Carl Icahn has been a stellar performer in the investment world for decades, but following his lead these days could be dangerous.
  8. Stock Analysis

    Analyzing Altria's Return on Equity (ROE) (MO)

    Learn about Altria Group's return on equity (ROE) and analyze net profit margin, asset turnover and financial leverage to determine what is causing its high ROE.
  9. Investing News

    Icahn's Bet on Cheniere Energy: Should You Follow?

    Investing legend Carl Icahn continues to lose money on Cheniere Energy, but he's increasing his stake. Should you follow his lead?
  10. Stock Analysis

    Analyzing Google's Return on Equity (ROE) (GOOGL)

    Learn about Alphabet's return on equity. How has its ROE changed over time, how does it compare to its peers and what factors are driving ROE for the company?
RELATED FAQS
  1. How do dividends affect retained earnings?

    When a company issues a cash dividend to its shareholders, the retained earnings listed on the balance sheet are reduced ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital?

    The difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital is investors have already paid in full for paid-up ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Why would a corporation issue convertible bonds?

    A convertible bond represents a hybrid security that has bond and equity features; this type of bond allows the conversion ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How does additional paid in capital affect retained earnings?

    Both additional paid-in capital and retained earnings are entries under the shareholders' equity section of a company's balance ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What types of capital are not considered share capital?

    The money a business uses to fund operations or growth is called capital, and there are a number of capital sources available. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between issued share capital and subscribed share capital?

    The difference between subscribed share capital and issued share capital is the former relates to the amount of stock for ... Read Full Answer >>
COMPANIES IN THIS ARTICLE
Trading Center