While Americans invest more than $7 trillion of their retirement money in stocks and bonds and mutual funds through employer-supported 401(k) plans, experts estimate that fewer than $750 million of that is invested in clean energy.
Clean and renewable energy companies building wind and solar farms could benefit big time from the cash infusion that regular Americans could easily provide, said Ken Beitel, advisory board chairman for The Renewable Energy Initiative. The initiative’s goal is to increase private investment in clean technology.
Part of the problem now is that most clean technology companies are young and don’t have the kind of revenue or history that big corporations’ financial advisors like to include among the options for employees to invest in, Beitel said.
But it’s time to change that. The initiative is working with companies around the country to get them to include a renewable energy option in their 401(k) plans. While there are not a lot of clean energy funds out there, there are a few, including the Calvert Alternative Energy Fund, which is invested 100 percent in renewables and the Alger Green Fund, which contains 20 percent renewable energy stocks.
More and more employees are going to employers and asking for these kinds of investment options, Beitel said.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a groundswell,” said Sylvia Francis, president of the Colorado Human Resources Association. “But from an HR standpoint, this kind of thing really is a recruitment tool.”
She said she expects more and more employees and more and more employers to get on board with offering a renewable energy option in 401(k) plans.
“This generation that’s coming up now are into this,” Francis said of clean energy. “They want this.”
Francis said she knew it would sound strange given our current economic climate, but within the next few years as 401(k) funds do better and baby boomers retire, there will be a labor shortage in the United States and employers will be fighting for the best personnel.
“We need to be recruiting and retaining these young superstars now,” she said.
And today’s generation believes in solar and other renewable energy technology, Francis said. They want to be able to invest their retirement funds where their ideals lay and if employers want to keep up, they will have to start offering 401(k) options to match.