Vivint continues residential solar growth, hopes to catch up on energy storage

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Vivint Solar set an annual record for solar installations in 2019.

But shares of Vivint fell after the solar installer/financier posted a larger-than-expected fourth-quarter loss of $33.5 million, compared with a loss of $12.9 million, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue rose 21% to $77 million from $64 million, but did not meet analyst expectations.

According to the CEO, David Bywater, the residential solar financier and installer “installed 66 megawatts for 9,500 customers in the fourth quarter. This represents 22% growth of installed megawatts over the fourth quarter of 2018. For the full year, our growth was 19% as we installed 233 megawatts for almost 34,000 customers. This is a new record for annual volume for the company.”

This follows a record third quarter for the firm.

The installer’s growth in California was up 27%  for the quarter versus the prior year. In Massachusetts, growth was up 25%, and in Jersey, it was up 57% for the quarter.

Comparing Vivint, Sunrun and Tesla in solar installs

There are three major national U.S. solar installer/financiers and Vivint is No.2 behind Sunrun and ahead of Tesla. Here are the 2019 solar install numbers for the three competitors.

  • Vivint installed 233 MW in 2019.
  • Sunrun installed 413 MW in 2019, up from 373 MW 2018 and good for an 11% increase year-over-year.
  • Tesla installed 173 MW in 2019.

Vivint claims that one of its “major strategic advantages and why we continue to increase our market share in these highly competitive markets is Vivint Solar’s powerful direct-to-home sales force.”

Tesla abandoned a direct sales force in favor of online sales in 2019.

Vivint expects to “grow installed megawatts by 15% to 20%, given the strength of our current pipeline.”

Catching up on energy storage

Vivint has been late to develop its energy storage business and admitted it.

“We’re behind on storage, so we knew that. We have shifted in the last quarter or two. You’ve heard from us that we’ve stepped up our game there. And we’re seeing it. We’ve doubled what we’re doing in Q4 over Q3”

The CEO said, “We continue to gain traction with our storage offerings, primarily in Hawaii and California. Storage has become an increasing portion of our business, and we believe it will be a material part of our business this year with double-digit attach rates in markets where we offer a storage option.”

According to the U.S. Energy Storage Association and Wood Mackenzie, Q4 2019 marks the largest-ever quarter for storage deployments across all U.S. market segments. It was a record quarter for power capacity with the U.S. deploying 186.4 MW and 364.2 MWh of energy storage.

Guidance for the next quarter

Vivint expects installed volume to be between 57 to 60 megawatts in the first quarter of 2020 — with a cost per watt to be between $3.68 and $3.75.

Dana Russell, the company’s CFO said, “Our net retained value was $1.2 billion at the end of the fourth quarter. On a per-share basis, this represents approximately $10…we believe net retained value, as we calculated, is a good proxy for the asset value of the company.”

The CEO added, “I actually have never been more bullish about the company than I am right now. I mean, operationally, we’re performing now at a better level than we’ve ever performed. I mean, hands down. And our strength there to flex forward is remarkable. From the sell-side generation, I mean, our direct-to-home team is absolutely crushing it.”

Here’s a link to the company’s financial results.