A Brightening Sector

Published 4/29/2011 12:45 p.m. EDT

High gas prices, government initiatives and the leadership of large companies should help to draw more attention to "green energy" investments as we head into the summer months. According to data released today, U.S. consumers remained confident in the economic recovery in April, but prices at the pump are still a nagging concern.

After yesterday's close, energy giant Total ( TOT) announced that it will take a 60% stake in solar energy firm SunPower ( SPWRA). The news caused SunPower to move higher in after-hours trading and has helped inspire a solar-sector upswing during today's session. Today's " ETF Play of the Day ," the Market Vectors Solar Energy ETF ( KWT), is trading more than 4% higher on the news.

Total isn't the only company that has taken recent steps to gain exposure to green energy. Earlier this month, Internet giant Google ( GOOG) announced that it will invest $168 million in a massive solar energy project in California. Together with NRG Energy ( NRG), Google will help build the world's largest thermal energy plant.

Despite pressure to trim the national budget, President Obama seems committed to funding alternative energy projects and promoting energy independence. Gas and oil prices should also help draw awareness to alternatives such as solar as the weather heats up.

At the time of publication, Dion Money Management held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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