With the world's population growing at a rapid pace, there is much debate over how we will power ourselves. Energy usage is expected to rise exponentially over the next decades and new alternative methods and traditional energy sources will all get their turn in the sun. However, with pending austerity plans, subsidies and traditional energy-related disasters rearing their heads, it can be difficult to pick winners in the energy race. Blanket investments in alternatives such as the PowerShares WilderHill Clean Energy (NYSE:PBW) or traditional means such as Energy Select Sector SPDR (NYSE:XLE) make sense for overall portfolio diversification, but focusing on efficiency and reducing needed energy could provide better gains for a portfolio.

IN PICTURES: Top 7 Franchise Dangers

Removing Energy Hogs
At the end of 2007, Congress enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act, which gave the directive to end production of most incandescent bulbs between 2012 and 2014. These "old school" light bulbs are extremely inefficient as only 5% to 10% of their energy used is given as light, while the rest is released as heat. This factor is extremely important when nearly 25% of the energy we consume goes into lighting our homes and businesses. While compact fluorescents lamps (CFLs), incandescent bulbs' more efficient cousins, are quickly being adopted by the main stream public, another technology, first created in the 1960s, offers better energy reduction and savings.

Already a staple in many electronic devices, light emitting diodes (LEDs) could be the answer to help decrease energy usage. New technologies in LED lighting have moved the semiconductor from the TV remote to high-efficiency bulbs. To produce the same amount of light as 40 to 100 watt incandescent bulb, a comparable LED will only consume three to 13 watts of power, a significant savings. They produce little to no heat and have an average lifespan of 50,000 hours. (Learn more about investing in alternative energy industries, read Clean Or Green Technology Investing and Top 10 Green Industries.)

Room for Growth
While LEDs make up only about 1% of the $60 billion lighting marker today, analysts estimate that by 2020 they will make up almost 80%. In addition, advances in flat panel monitor and TV equipment are helping spur growth in the chips. Total consumption of LEDs across all forms reached 63 billion units in 2009, up from 57 billion in 2008. Widespread usage of the semiconductor form has many analysts bullish for the rest of year and some are even calling for potential supply shortages.

Giving Some Brightness to a Portfolio
Nearly half of the market for LED bulbs is produced by a handful of manufacturers. GE (NYSE:GE), Phillips (NYSE: PHG) and Siemens' (NYSE:SI) Osram unit are some the largest producers with Toshiba (OTCBB:TOSBF) and Panasonic (NYSE:PC) rounding out the space. These large conglomerates have many moving pieces and lighting is just one facet. Investors do have a few options with regards to pure players.

Cree (NASDAQ:CREE) produces LEDs for several markets, but specializes in lighting technologies. The company generates some of the most efficient and high-yielding chips, and are quickly becoming the industry standard. The stock has risen from nearly $20 in 2008 to around $60 today. It isn't cheap trading at forward P/E of 27 and a PEG of 1.73, but its premium may be deserved as the industry leader. Any pullback in share price could be a buying opportunity.

Just as with the regular semiconductor market, there are plenty of companies who manufacture the chips themselves, but only a handful that make the equipment to do so. Similar to Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) with regular semis, Veeco Instruments (NASDAQ:VECO) and German firm Aixtron (NASDAQ:AIXG) produce the equipment needed to make LED chips. The two firms should see long term growth in LED portfolios as adoption of the technology and potential shortages will cause the need for more production equipment.

Bottom Line
As energy consumption continues to rise along with our population, new ways of managing energy efficiency will gain credence. LED technology is a perfect example of a low cost, consumer friendly technology that has a real impact on the amount of energy consumed. The preceding stocks are a great way to add the growth of LEDs to a portfolio. (Learn how global warming is starting to heat up America's corporate climate. check out Can Business Evolve In A Green World?)

Use the Investopedia Stock Simulator to trade the stocks mentioned in this stock analysis, risk free!

Related Articles
  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. Investing News

    Is Buffett's Bet on Oil Right for You? (XOM, PSX)

    Oil stocks are getting trounced, but Warren Buffett still likes one of them. Should you follow the leader?
  5. Investing News

    Chipotle Served with Criminal Probe

    Chipotle's beat muted expectations and got a clear bill from the CDC, but it now appears that an investigation into its E.coli breakout has expanded.
  6. Stock Analysis

    Analyzing Sprint Corp's Return on Equity (ROE) (S)

    Learn about Sprint's return on equity. Find out why its ROE is negative and how asset turnover and financial leverage impact ROE relative to Sprint's peers.
  7. Stock Analysis

    Why Alphabet is the Best of the 'FANGs' for 2016

    Alphabet just impressed the street, but is it the best FANG stock?
  8. Investing News

    A 2016 Outlook: What January 2009 Can Teach Us

    January 2009 and January 2016 were similar from an investment standpoint, but from a forward-looking perspective, they were very different.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    3 Vanguard Equity Fund Underperformers

    Discover three funds from Vanguard Group that consistently underperform their indexes. Learn how consistent most Vanguard low-fee funds are at matching their indexes.
  10. Investing News

    Alphabet Earnings Beat Expectations (GOOGL, AAPL)

    Alphabet's earnings crush analysts' expectations; now bigger than Apple?
  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 >>
Trading Center