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Clean Energy ETFs Are on a Tear

Should you go clean energy classic? Or take the low-carbon route?
A robot handles a solar panel on the module production line at the REC Solar manufacturing facility in Singapore on Sept. 5, 2014.
Photographer: Nicky Loh/Bloomberg

Green investing used to be synonymous with losing money. But while the S&P 500 Index is up 2 percent this year, and the MSCI All-Country World Index is up 5 percent, clean energy ETFs have double-digit returns. The Market Vectors Global Alternative Energy ETF (GEX) sports a 17 percent gain. The Guggenheim Solar Energy Index ETF (TAN) is up 37 percent. All 12 clean energy ETFs are beating the market, and their combined assets just topped $1 billion.

Demand for clean energy continues to rise. China remains a big part of the story: It's targeting a record 17.8 gigawatts of solar installations in 2015, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. More evidence comes from SolarCity Corp., which doubled its installations of solar panels in 2015's first quarter, compared with the same period a year ago.