Sunnova earnings dip, unrestricted cash grows as it mends balance sheet

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Sunnova Energy International, a provider of solar, energy storage, and home energy adaptive services, announced its Q1 2024 earnings, noting a continued decline in revenues amid a challenging U.S. macroeconomic environment for the residential solar industry.

Revenues fell short of consensus estimates, with $160.9 million reported versus an expected $193.5 million. On an earnings per share basis, the company exceeded expectations, delivering a loss of $0.17 versus an expected loss of $0.66 per share.

Investors have been flagging concerns about the company’s ability to generate enough cash, which has come under focus for Sunnova’s management. Along with continued reductions operational costs, the company pulled on levers to secure unrestricted cash, which increased by $18.9 million in the first quarter compared to the prior quarter. The company now has about $232 million in unrestricted cash.

“Our team is squarely focused on increasing our cash generation and maintaining our margins. Through continued cost efficiencies, maximizing our asset-level financing, further utilizing investment tax credit adders, and re-focusing on our core adaptive energy customers, we expect to be able to drive improved performance,” said William J. (John) Berger, Sunnova’s founder and chief executive officer.

The residential and commercial solar industry has faced struggles over the past year as a high interest rate environment has squeezed financing, making the return on investment for homeowners less attractive. However, steadily rising utility rates and consumer desire for extra services like battery backup continue to drive demand.

The high interest-rate environment has pushed the industry away from a finance and loan based market to one more focused on leases and power purchase agreements. This is expected to be a benefit to Sunnova, which has a strong position in the lease and third-party-owned solar and storage sector.

“Our core value thesis remains strong and intact, and homeowners and businesses continue to see the benefits of becoming Sunnova customers in the face of rising utility rates and grid instability,” said Berger.

The company added about 27,000 new customers in-quarter, bringing its total count to over 438,000. Sunnova operates in 51 states and territories and has a network of over 2,000 dealers, subcontractors and builders in its network. The company has lowered its guidance for customer additions for the full year 2024, decreasing from a range of 140,000 to 150,000 customers from previous estimates of 185,000 to 190,000. The guidance would represent about 35% year-over-year growth in Sunnova’s customer base.

The company’s operating expenses increased by $29.9 million to $108.3 million year-over-year for the quarter. The company incurred net losses of $90.1 million, posting lower net losses than the $110.3 million posted in Q1, 2023.

In-quarter, the company entered a strategic alliance with The Home Depot to be the exclusive solar provider for the retail giant. Over 2,000 locations will host Sunnova representatives helping Home Depot customers make an inquiry into residential solar, energy storage, and home energy management services for their residence.

In September 2023, Sunnova secured a $3 billion partial loan guarantee agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Programs Office (LPO), equating to a 90% guarantee of up to $3.3 billion of term loans. The funds will support loans originated by Sunnova under its new “Project Hestia.”

Project Hestia is designed to increase access to solar and virtual power plant (VPP) services for disadvantaged communities who otherwise may not be able to secure loans for residential solar projects. The company will receive indirect and partially guaranteed cash flows for the loans associated with these customer accounts.

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