New Alternatives in Energy

02/02/2015 7:00 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

Stephen Leeb

Founder and Research Chairman, Leeb Group

Suppose you don’t want to bet on the timing of an upturn in oil prices? asks Stephen Leeb, editor of The Complete Investor.

Indeed, suppose you want nothing to do with oil or with stocks directly leveraged to oil. However, suppose you’re very confident—as we are—that an upturn in oil is in the cards. Are there any ways to participate?

One easy-to-understand investment fitting the bill would be a diversified collection of companies that derive a great deal of their earnings from alternative energies. And that’s exactly what you get with the mutual fund New Alternatives Fund (NALFX).

Under its charter, the fund must devote just 25% of its assets to alternative energies and/or energy efficiencies. But the managers have gone well beyond that and the vast majority of stocks—85 to 90%—are in companies reducing our dependency on finite sources of energy.

The three largest positions, comprising around 14% of the fund’s equity holdings, are companies that generate electricity from renewable sources.

Canada’s Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners (BEP) produces electricity from hydropower, NextEra Energy (NEE) relies on a variety of renewables including solar, and Spain-based EDP Renováveis (EDRV) focuses on wind power.

Another large position is in Pattern Energy (PEGI), the fund’s highest-yielding holding. Abengoa Yield (ABY) also gets a large weighting: it has a product line and financial structure similar to Pattern’s and yields 4%.

Many stocks outside the energy industry have stakes in other critical resource areas. We've recently recommended water stocks, one of which, Xylem (XYL), is a prominent holding in New Alternatives Fund.

Also highly weighted is Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure (HASI), which provides financing infrastructure for renewable projects. Johnson Control (JCI), a longtime favorite, is one of the world’s leaders in producing products for energy efficiency in commercial buildings.

New Alternatives Fund has a strong long-term record. Over the past one-, three-, and five-year periods, its performance has been well above the mean for similar funds.

Moreover, the fund does tend to correlate with oil prices but—especially during the recent oil rout—with a strong upside bias.

Our one qualm is the relatively high front-load of 4.75%. But management fees are low—below 0.6%—and there are no 12b-1 (annual marketing) fees.

Given the high front-load, the fund is best suited for long-term investors, which is fine, since a long-term bet on new energies should prove a very rewarding strategy.

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