Forget Paris: Solar Will Shine Despite Trump’s Climate Decision
When President Trump last week announced that the U.S. would abandon the international agreement signed in Paris to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the condemnation from a wide variety of quarters was swift and harsh.
Perhaps the most telling source of disapproval came from Wall Street and corporate America. The top capitalists in the country understand that renewable energy, especially solar power, is a multi-billion-dollar moneymaker and the wave of the future.
In the midst of this political firestorm, solar and other renewable energy stocks took a dive. Leading solar stocks, three of which I highlight below, plunged between 3% and 6% on the day of Trump’s announcement and they continue to languish. As I’ll explain in a minute, that’s a lucky break for you.
Dozens of CEOs who previously were Trump allies publicly rebuked the White House for its decision on the Paris accord, including Elon Musk of Tesla (NSDQ: TSLA), Robert Iger of Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS), Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS), and Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric (NYSE: GE). Musk and Iger immediately quit as outside advisers to Trump.
None of these businessmen are known as tree-huggers; they wear wingtips, not Birkenstocks.
The Paris accord was signed in late 2015 by about 200 governments. Under the deal, world leaders agreed to curtail air pollution and transition toward “green energy” such as solar.
Trump defended his decision as an act of national sovereignty. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he said. In immediate response, the major of Pittsburgh disavowed the president’s action.
Look, we’re financial analysts, not political pundits. I’m not here to argue the pros and cons of the Paris climate agreement, nor of President Trump’s decision to withdraw from it. Let the cable TV yakkers and the opinion pages duke it out.
But I am here to tell you that investors overreacted to the news by punishing intrinsically strong solar stocks, which now makes them rare bargains in a broader market that’s generally overvalued.
I examine three of the best solar plays now.
Shining through the political gloom…
The cost of solar continues to drop, while at the same time the industry’s infrastructure becomes more efficient and pervasive, with large scale grids increasingly the norm. End users are accustomed to affordable and reliable solar energy, a reality that has de-coupled solar from the price of oil.
For years, the dynamic was simple: solar energy’s attractiveness was tied to the cost of oil, with cheaper oil undermining the economic case for solar. That’s no longer the case. Solar marches to its own tune, regardless of oil price fluctuations. The same goes for government incentives. Solar has matured; favorable regulatory policy such as the Paris accord is nice, but not a must.
I’ve often recommended Canadian Solar (NSDQ: CSIQ), a small-cap play with headquarters in Canada and low-cost manufacturing facilities in China. With a market cap of $740 million, Canadian Solar provides the solar sector with ingots, wafers, cells, modules, and complete power systems. The company also makes specialty products, such as solar-powered car battery chargers. For details on Canadian Solar, see my February 22 issue. I’m still big on the stock.
SolarEdge Technologies (NSDQ: SEDG) is a promising solar play that I haven’t written about before. My colleague Robert Rapier, chief investment strategist of The Energy Strategist, strongly recommends SolarEdge.
SolarEdge is a provider of solar inverters, which are highly sophisticated components that transform collected solar energy into viable electric current. They’re a key determinant of a solar energy system’s efficiency.
SolarEdge dominates a niche with fewer competitors and higher margins than the makers of photovoltaic (PV) panels. PV panels are becoming a commodities business; the future belongs to solar companies that can provide “value added” technology such as SolarEdge.
With a market cap of $764.5 million, SolarEdge has the added appeal of being a small-cap in a year when the small fry are expected to outperform large-cap stocks. The same holds true for Canadian Solar.
When it comes to energy investing, Robert Rapier is the savviest person I know. Here’s what he has to say about SolarEdge, which he added to his publication’s Growth Portfolio on May 24, 2016:
“Since going public in 2015, SolarEdge’s results have repeatedly beat expectations. The company has consistently and impressively grown revenues, profitability and cash flow generation year after year. But it did so during a solar slump that persisted throughout 2015 and 2016…
I am a firm believer in the future of solar power. I believe that growth in the sector will continue to be exponential for many years to come. I think quality companies in the sector will outperform the market in time, but short-term fluctuations can be sharp…
Year-to-date, shares are now up by 48%, which makes SolarEdge the top-performing company in the portfolio this year. SolarEdge has had a good run this year, but I still think it’s undervalued.”
Linda McDonough, chief investment strategist of Profit Catalyst Alert, also likes SolarEdge:
“The company is a step ahead of the competition when it comes to cheaper, more-efficient components for solar energy systems. As its customers get squeezed to lower the cost of making these systems, SolarEdge already gives them a built-in price break on a better product.
The company is part of the evolution that is making solar an affordable option. At the same time that the company has been lowering costs, it has been making higher profits per module despite the lower price.”
Money from sunlight…
Another high-quality solar stock that’s a member of The Energy Strategist Growth Portfolio is First Solar (NSDQ: FSLR), which was added on August 28, 2013.
With a market cap of $4 billion, First Solar is the industry leader and historically has shown the most stability in an energy sub-sector typically made up of smaller, more volatile players.
Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar has evolved from a mere supplier of solar technology to a strategic builder of giant, vertically integrated utility-scale grids that produce solar power at lower cost due to economies of scale.
First Solar makes solar panels and provides electric utility PV power plants, as well as supporting services that include finance, construction, maintenance, and solar panel recycling.
A key advantage for First Solar is its use of cadmium telluride instead of silicon as a semiconductor for its panels, which facilitates greater energy efficiency and lower cost. The company’s solar panel distribution networks are found in more than a dozen countries.
As the largest and most established solar company, First Solar is less risky than its counterparts. However, as such, it also confers less opportunity for big gains than its smaller peers.
Tune out the overheated headlines about the Paris climate accord, at least as it applies to solar power. Solar’s long-term growth appears assured.
Got any questions or comments? Drop me a line: email@example.com. I reserve the right to edit any letter for the sake of concision and/or clarity. — John Persinos
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