Sunnova Energy’s disappointing debut on the New York Stock Exchange won’t deter investors from supporting solar, as signs point to rising demand for clean, renewable energy sources.
Houston-based Sunnova Energy International Inc.’s stock opened at $12 on July 26, far less than the $16 to $18 the company projected a few weeks earlier. The stock tumbled 6.3% its first day and is yet to trade at or above its IPO price.
Still, the weak performance may have been a result of factors unique to the company, not a sign of wider issues in the solar industry. A disagreement with competitor Sunrun Inc. probably undercut the IPO. Sunrun send a note ahead of the IPO that accused Sunnova of making “misleading or inaccurate” claims about the relative costs of the company’s products to consumers. That may have rattled investors.
“The solar industry, broadly speaking, is going to grow both domestically and internationally,” Nathanael Greene, a senior renewable energy policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Karma. “We have to if we want to avoid climate catastrophe.”
Private investment is seen on a growth path for at least the next few years, spurred by oil and gas majors’ transition away from carbon-based fuels. Private equity is eyeing solar and other as it develops into a “safe and growing asset class” due to the technology proving itself, Latham & Watkins partners Eli Katz and Omar Nazif wrote last week.
The U.S. solar sector as a whole has performed strongly this year. The Invesco Solar ETF and the Invesco WilderHill Clean Energy ETF are two of the best performing Exchange Traded Funds year-to-date, according to ETF Strategy.
Shares in SunPower Corporation, a San Jose, California-based company that designs and manufactures solar panels have more than doubled this year. Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar, Inc. is up about 50% year-to-date, led by strong growth in power plant installation and the ramp up of production of new panels.
“Big private companies, tech companies are making big investments in renewables because once the initial investment is made they have a stable, cheap energy source,” Greene said. “The sun will continue to rise and the wind will blow, and they’re free.”
The U.S. is projected to install 13 gigawatts of new solar capacity this year, up about 25% from 2018, according to a report from the Solar Energy Industries Association and Wood Mackenzie. Strength is concentrated in the residential sector, while non-residential installations will slip as the industry adapts to reduced incentives in some key markets.
Total installed U.S. photovoltaic capacity is expected to more than double by 2024, when more than 15 gigawatts of capacity will be installed annually, the Solar Energy Industries Association Wood Mackenzie report showed.
Renewable energy is undercutting the cost of new natural gas and coal generation in a growing number of regions, according to Lazard, a financial advisory firm. Some renewables, especially onshore wind and utility-scale solar, is cheaper than the lowest-cost gas and coal in many cases, even without subsidies factored in, Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy shows.
“Renewable electricity isn’t only good for the environment and profits but also for jobs,” Greene said. “Solar jobs are the fastest growing sector, closely followed by wind jobs. Solar is not just a great investment for industry but also for our communities.”
The cost to install solar has dropped more than 70% over the last decade, leading to a rapid expansion of the industry into new markets and leading to more panels being installed nationwide, according to Lazard. There’s no reason to expect the trend to end, so investors looking for sustainable opportunities should take note.