It is not unusual to open a newspaper and find a debate about renewable energy, but if you don't know your carbon capture from your ethanol extraction processes, don't panic, you will probably never have to.
Green investments or "clean-tech" as it is now more commonly known, is one of the most important, fascinating and buoyant sectors to emerge out of the 21 st century. Take out all the jargon and hyperbole and you are left with a very exciting way to do something positive with your money that will both genuinely contribute towards saving the planet as well as help safeguard the supply of energy for future generations. Even with small budgets there is plenty you can do in the green space such as forestry; Brazilian Teak returns a guaranteed 10 per cent per annum and £5,000 buys you one hundred nine-year-old teak trees.
On a larger scale, wind farms, solar parks, biomass plants, waste recycling and water desalination all make sound investments. Not, incidentally, because governments offer Feed in Tariffs, which are subsidies, or ROC's, which are tax incentives, but because the core product is free. With wind, sun, and waste, we are harnessing and monetising what is both free and abundant in supply, converting it into energy and selling it to willing off-takers, the energy companies.
Something else to think about is biofuel. If you want to become an oil tycoon you need to discover a well, drill it, refine it - it will costs you millions to get to first base. Now what if you had the technology to extract oil from non-food sources such as algae that live in seawater. These are third-generation biofuels and it now becoming an oil baron becomes more plausible. Currently there is a global race to develop processes for extracting oil from algae and with Lufthansa, United Airlines and China Air having all successfully completed commercial flights in 2011 using algae-based biofuels it is easy to see why.
Globally, wind and solar investments increased by 13 per cent in 2011 on the previous year by $8.9 billion and typical returns on such projects would average 10-12 per cent and have been known to reach 30 per cent IRR. Investing in renewable energy for ethical purposes does not mean compromising the returns but due diligence should always be thorough.
While many investors are mystified by these new emerging technologies, others are claiming their stake and reaping the rewards from green alternatives. Isn't it time you made your portfolios greener, took professional advice and started leveraging off these opportunities most of which are far simpler than you may think?
Melvyn Solomon is managing director of Carbon Assets, www.carbon-assets.co.uk