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Hello, and happy Friday!
I guess a few things happened in the last week.
- Major news networks projected Joe Biden will be the next president.
- Pfizer revealed successful results from its coronavirus vaccine trial, sending oil and energy stocks surging (Peloton and other stay-at-home stocks tumbled â€¦).
- US coronavirus cases shattered daily records (Iowa, my home state, I’m looking at you.)
- My puppy gained what looks like 10 pounds because he’s a growing boy and maybe I fed him too many treats.
We also published our investigation into the energy company Powerhome Solar. Let’s start there.
Investigation: How a top energy firm uses misleading tactics to sell costly solar-energy systems, according to insiders and leaked documents
Buying solar panels for your home comes with all kinds of perks, from access to clean electricity to power during blackouts.
That doesn’t mean it’s always a good deal.
Our investigation into the company Powerhome Solar â€” among the nation’s fastest-growing energy firms â€” suggests it uses misleading tactics to sell rooftop solar panels and batteries that cost double the industry average.
- The company uses misleading ads on Facebook to generate leads, or potential customers. Some of the ads imply there’s a government solar stimulus program that doesn’t exist.
- Sales reps then visit those potential customers in their homes and sometimes make statements about Powerhome’s products that aren’t true, our investigation suggests.
- Some homeowners end up stuck with expensive systems that don’t perform as the company promised.
- I really encourage you to read the whole story, found here. It’s based on conversations with a dozen current and former employees, customers, industry experts, and a review of legal records and internal company files we obtained.
The context: The solar industry is complicated and the value of a rooftop array varies dramatically from homeowner to homeowner.
- For example, not everyone will qualify for a generous tax credit.
- That makes the industry ripe for sales practices that may deceive consumers.
- We previously reported that misleading solar ads were spreading on Facebook during the pandemic, which drove up online lead generation.
What the company said: “Powerhome Solar’s sales and marketing teams are provided comprehensive training (and continuing training and education) as to proper execution of their responsibilities, and POWERHOME SOLAR has robust compliance protocols and policies to ensure that all their efforts comply with applicable requirements.”
- More of Powerhome’s comments can be found here.
Do you have information about Powerhome Solar or questions about our reporting? You can reach me at [email protected].
President-elect Joe Biden may have a tough time rolling out his complete energy agenda unless Democrats gain control of the Senate. But he’s expected to make fast work of undoing many of the Trump administration’s policies that are favourable to fossil fuels.
Now we have a better idea of who might help lead that charge.
- Biden released on Tuesday a list of staffers who will head up “review teams” for the DOE, EPA, Interior Department, and Council on Environmental Quality, Robin Bravender reports.
- “They might also be up for top jobs in the Biden administration,” Bravender writes. “Transition-team leaders often land prime gigs in the agencies they work on during the presidential handover.”
- See Biden’s four picks here.
In other news: A Biden administration could advance ESG investing, Martin Whittaker, the CEO of JUST Capital, told BI’s Marguerite Ward.
- “I could see the SEC taking a look at ESG disclosures, standardising that,” Whittaker said.
- “I could see implications for corporate reporting on ESG issues, which would drive a whole effort around standardization, which is what everybody in the ESG space wants anyways. I could see those types of things to promote ESG investing, advance the field, happening.”
- Read the full interview here.
Oh, and in case you missed it: We wrote about how 5 top analysts expect Biden to shape the future energy industry when he takes office.
Who can say.
The price of crude â€” on which the entire oil industry is leveraged â€” is tethered to the prospect of a recovery. That’s because when people leave their homes (ah, what an idea!) they tend to use more fuel.
- Two weeks ago, oil markets hit their lowest point since June as Europe announced new lockdowns. Lockdowns signal to traders that demand will fall.
- They then surged more than 10% Monday after Pfizer announced positive results from its coronavirus vaccine trial.
Price check: A barrel of Brent crude, the international benchmark, was trading for about $US43 a barrel on Friday, still up relative to last week on vaccine news.
- Kloza and two other analysts shared insights on what to expect for oil markets in the months ahead including where prices might settle this winter â€” and when they’re expected to reverse pandemic losses. You can read those here.
- Also, the International Energy Agency cut its forecast for oil demand again this week,Amanda Cooper of Markets Insider reported.
- “It is far too early to know how and when vaccines will allow normal life to resume. For now, our forecasts do not anticipate a significant impact in the first half of 2021,” the agency said.
What it means for stocks: Goldman Sachs laid out 22 stocks it says will outperform the market as a result of two trends: The recovery of oil prices and demand and the expansion of clean energy. You can find those here.
- Last week, we also wrote about Morgan Stanley’s view that certain oil stocks would benefit from a divided US government.Here are the 13 the bank is betting on.
4 stories that caught our attention
- Occidental Petroleum set a goal, rare among US oil giants, of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions stemming from the firm’s operations to net-zero by 2040, per Reuters.
- BP and wind-energy giant Orsted are teaming up to build a massive electrolyzer for producing hydrogen gas with renewable energy, Bloomberg reports.
- An investigation worth a read: The consulting firm FTI “helped design, staff, and run organisations and websites funded by energy companies that can appear to represent grass-roots support for fossil-fuel initiatives,” the New York Times reports.
- The Trump administration ousted the official who oversees the federal program that publishes the government’s “definitive reports on climate change,” the Washington Post reports.
That’s it! Have a great weekend.
Ps. Jumanji sometimes declines my invitation to walk, so I have acquired a dog backpack. Obviously.
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