Cleantech ETFs Vastly Outperform Dow Jones, Oil & Gas In 2020


Published on December 4th, 2020 |
by Michael Barnard

December 4th, 2020 by  

On February 10th, I published my assessment of the cleantech ETF space, Not All Cleantech ETFS Are Worth Investing In. I was wrong. Mea culpa again.

investment graphic

Image courtesy Washington State Dept of Financial Institutions

First, let’s look at the list of ETFs I assessed. Specifically, let’s assess what the value of an $10,000 investment in them on February 10th would be today.

ETFCategoryStock SymbolValue of $10k if purchased Feb 10, 2020
PZD – Invesco Cleantech™ ETFCleantechPZD$13,272.94
ALPS Clean Energy ETF (ACES)Clean EnergyACES-A$17,080.24
First Trust NASDAQ Clean Edge Green Energy Index Fund (QCLN)Clean EnergyQCLN$21,052.63
VanEck Vectors Low Carbon Energy ETF (SMOG)Clean EnergySMOG$17,069.41
Invesco Wilderhill Clean Energy ETFClean EnergyARCA$21,465.37
iShares Global Clean Energy ETFClean EnergyICLN$17,338.83
ALPS ETF Trust ALPS Disruptive (DTEC)CleantechDTEC$12,532.52
Autonomous & Electric Vehicles ETF (DRIV)TransportationDRIV$14,438.78
iShares Self-Driving EV and Tech ETF | IDRVTransportationIDRV$14,444.44
Smart Transportation & Technology ETFTransportationMOTO$13,759.45
Global X YieldCo & Renewable Energy Income ETF (YLCO)Clean EnergyYLCO$10,589.71
KraneShares Electric Vehicles and Future Mobility ETFTransportationKARS$14,882.90
SPDR S&P Kensho Smart Mobility ETF FundTransportationHAIL$15,929.51
Ideanomics NextGen Vehicles & Technology ETF (EKAR)TransportationEKAR$14,475.79
First Trust NASDAQ Global Auto Index Fund (CARZ)TransportationCARZ$14,335.83

The average gain for these ETFs was 55%. The best two were over 100% while the worst was 5.9%. The average for the six I declared to be winners by my assessment was 79%.

Meanwhile, how did the Dow Jones do? It’s up 2.9% over the same period. That’s right. The worst performing cleantech ETF did twice as well as the market average. $10,000 invested in an index which tracked the DJI exactly would have been worth $10,290 today.

What about oil and gas? In March I pointed out that COVID-19 Impacting Oil & Gas More Than The Markets As A Whole. How is that sector doing compared to the DJI and cleantech? It’s off 20.5% per the S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production Index. $10,000 invested in a fund which exactly matched that sector would have been worth $7,953 today.

Every single cleantech ETF outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Index by a massive margin, and the gap between $10,000 invested in oil and gas vs the average of the ETFs was $7,500 in gain.

Let’s poke at this a bit more though. After all, this is the year of Tesla entering the S&P 500. $10,000 invested in Tesla on February 10th would be worth $26,918 today. And as much of my personal investment in ETFs was from profit-taking on Tesla, obviously I was wrong there too. To be clear, I’m completely fine with that. I was diversifying to reduce exposure to Tesla and have still done very well with both my remaining Tesla holdings and what I diversified into. But note that as Daniel Kahneman points out in Thinking, Fast and Slow, people almost always do worse on stocks they buy than those they sold. It’s a cognitive bias. It’s quite possible I’m just justifying my failure, as man is the animal that rationalizes.

The losers in February were the transportation ETFs. All of them were heavy on legacy automakers, all of them included Tesla. They average 46% returns since February. Even the worst of the funds in February, First Trust NASDAQ Global Auto Index Fund (CARZ), made 43% this year. However, they all hold Tesla positions as 2.9% to 6.4% of their portfolios, so at least some of their wins are simply riding Tesla. Three of them are based on the Solactive Electric Vehicles and Future Mobility Index, and as usual, it’s outperforming funds based on it substantially, coming in at 59.2% gains. As stated in February, these funds’ devotion to legacy automakers is doing them no favors. 


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About the Author

is Chief Strategist with TFIE Strategy Inc and co-founder of two current startups. He works with startups, existing businesses and investors to identify opportunities for significant bottom line growth and cost takeout in our rapidly transforming world. He is editor of The Future is Electric and designing for health. He regularly publishes analyses of low-carbon technology and policy in sites including Newsweek, Slate, Forbes, Huffington Post, Quartz, CleanTechnica and RenewEconomy, and his work is regularly included in textbooks. Third-party articles on his analyses and interviews have been published in dozens of news sites globally and have reached #1 on Reddit Science. He’s available for consulting engagements, speaking engagements and Board positions.

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