Earning a surprise top 30 ranking with a return of 13% this year is the $250 million New Alternatives Fund (NALFX), which keeps a socially responsible stock portfolio, including lots of "green" picks.
Its long-term record isn't good -- it has a negative 2% return over the past three years -- but this fund's prospects are likely to improve as investors' interest shifts to safe energy resources after the nuclear-plant failures in Japan has the world weighing the benefits of nuclear power.
The fund's top stock pick, at 6% of the portfolio, is EDF Energies Nouvelles (EEN), a French renewable-energy company that is a developer of wind and solar-energy projects. The company is half-owned by the French electric utility Electricite de France (EDF).It's involved in an area of electricity generation that is going to get a new look from both governments and investors in the coming months. The alternative-energy sector has been heavily dependent on government tax breaks or subsidies for its growth. About 90% of EDF's generation capacity comes from wind power, although its solar capacity is expected to grow much faster than it has previously and make up a larger portion of its overall capacity. It also has interests in ocean power and bio-fuels. The majority of the company's power generation is based in the U.S., France, Italy and Portugal for projects it owns and those it manages for third parties. Company shares have a return of 11% this year, giving it a market value of $2.7 billion.