SunPower to decide fate of commercial-industrial solar business this year


The latest quarterly figures published by U.S. solar and energy storage installer SunPower appear to indicate the days are numbered for its commercial and industrial (C&I) business unit.

Having last month announced it would consider divesting the commercial operation, the Californian business last week revealed C&I projects had contributed an $8 million hit to its third-quarter earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) figure of $17.5 million. Without that red result from its C&I customers – caused, in part by supply chain problems – the earnings number would have bested the $22.2 million posted in the previous three-month window.

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Although chief financial officer Manavendra Sial insisted in Wednesday’s update the “commercial and industrial solutions (CIS) business also had strong bookings for the third quarter,” the financial update added: “The company is considering strategic options for CIS and will provide an update in the fourth quarter.”

The uncertainty over the future of the business unit was deepened by the fact SunPower – which is controlled by French giant TotalEnergies – stripped out its CIS numbers – plus its already-confirmed legacy businesses – in the section of the update devoted to its expectations for the current quarter and full year.

That is probably because the inclusion of the commercial and industrial segment has prompted SunPower to revise down its full-year expectations for revenue, from the previous $1.41-1.49 billion, and for EBITDA, from $110-130 million. Curiously, the press release issued to announce the Q3 update did not appear to specify what those outlook numbers have been pulled back to.

SunPower posted a quarterly net loss of $84.4 million – down from net income of $75.2 million in the previous window – with the reverse “primarily driven by” a negative adjustment to the value of the stake SunPower holds in microinverter and storage business Enphase Energy, which would appear to have knocked that income-loss number by $86 million, according to the section of the update concerned with more friendly, non-generally accepted accounting principles.

The installer was rather more keen to stress its rising number of residential customers, with 108 MW of such systems recognized in the last quarter, to take the business to a total 390,000 household customers, not including the extra 20,000 acquired when SunPower paid “up to $165 million” for rival Blue Raven Solar last month, to open up new custom in the Northwestern and Mid-Atlantic markets of the U.S.

SunPower said it expects to recognize 345-375 MW of residential solar systems this year, with 55,000-60,000 new customers added. The business also said it is on track to hit $100 million worth of storage systems, and revealed it had secured a grant of $6.65 million from the U.S. Department of Energy last quarter, for its role in the ‘connected communities’ project which will assess the merits of community versus individual-household storage systems in two locations.

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