Sunrun withdraws 2020 residential solar guidance, goes low-contact, braces for the storm

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Sunrun, the largest residential solar installer in the U.S., gave a preliminary first-quarter update and withdrew its 2020 guidance due to “the impact of Covid-19 on our business.”

  • Sunrun deployed 97 megawatts in Q1, compared to 413 MW for all of last year.
  • The firm ended the quarter with $366 million in cash, an increase of $3 million from the previous quarter.

Just a few months ago, Sunrun had guided for deployments to grow 15% year-over-year, but the high-contact residential solar installation business is facing a harrowing next few quarters.

Sunrun laid off about 100 employees last week, according to Business Insider which reported that furloughed staff will continue to receive benefits for three months. Sungevity had mass layoffs last week, as reported by GTM. SunPower withdrew its 2020 guidance and its executives took pay cuts last month.

Accelerating the move to digital sales

Tesla eliminated door-to-door sales for its energy products in 2017 in order to lower customer acquisition costs and went completely online in its sales efforts in 2018. But these decisions were not motivated by a six-foot rule.

Sunrun is aiming to make the solar installation process as contact-free as possible by streamlining online permitting and interconnection and using drones to perform rooftop surveys.

Sunrun also believes that “this situation will accelerate adoption of automated, instantaneous permitting by local jurisdictions.”

Optimism in dark times

Sunrun notes, “In our direct business, despite installing less than expected due to the Covid-19 impact we did complete more installations in the second half of March than we did in the first half.”

Sunrun suggests that even if the country enters a prolonged downturn, people will still want solar as a money-saving source of reliable power. To that end, Sunrun just launched a home energy product that includes access to rooftop solar, with or without battery storage, for zero-money down and one dollar monthly payments for the first six months.