Vivint Solar has continued its impressive 2017 expansion this week, announcing that it was expanding its residential services into the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
For a company that just over a year ago was facing the bleak results of a failed acquisition by soon-to-be-bankrupt SunEdison, Vivint Solar seems to have beaten all expectations and stemmed a bankruptcy course of its own. I have said before that Vivint Solar has, for the last year, only been in the news for one of two reasons — newly-announced financing or newly-announced service expansion. This year, however, Vivint Solar’s fame has been driven by repeated expansion announcements, expanding the number of US states they operate in from 14 at the beginning of the year to 20.
Vivint Solar’s continued drive to expand across the US has also resonated with investors, who have helped drive the company’s share price back on path towards the heights it had reached 18 months ago. Vivint Solar’s shares had reached a high of $15.85 back in July of 2015, before what ended up being a year-long slump that included its failed acquisition by SunEdison — which itself, soon after Vivint Solar terminated the contract, declared bankruptcy. In May of 2016, Vivint Solar’s shares had reached a low of $2.24, before hovering around the $3.25 mark for almost a year. In the last few months, however, Vivint Solar’s shares have skyrocketed to $5.40, responding to a strong first quarter financial report in May, and continued movement by the company.
So far this year, Vivint Solar has continued its strong growth, with expansions into Rhode Island, Colorado, Vermont, New Hampshire, a return to Nevada after a two-year absence due to state-policies, and the most recently-announced expansion into Virginia. Announced on Wednesday, Vivint Solar revealed that it was also expanding its residential solar services into Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — expanding its original Pennsylvania expansion that it made back in August of 2015. According to the US Energy Information Administration, renewable energy accounted for 4% of Pennsylvania’s net electricity generation in 2015, meanwhile, in mid-2016, Pittsburgh’s interest in solar increased, suggesting strong possibility for residential solar companies like Vivint Solar.
“Pittsburgh is an emerging, yet virtually untapped market for solar energy with strong potential,” said David Bywater, CEO of Vivint Solar. “We applaud the efforts and enthusiasm for renewable energy in the state and look forward to empowering more Pennsylvania residents to make a positive impact on the environment.”
Maybe most interesting is the possibility that Vivint Solar’s move into Pittsburgh has at least in-part been driven by the city’s response to US President Donald Trump’s pronouncement, amidst his decision to withdraw the country from the Paris Climate Agreement, that he was the elected “to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” The day after Donald Trump’s ignorant Rose Garden announcement, Pittsburgh’s Mayor William Peduto issued an Executive Order committing the city to the Paris Climate Accords.
“For decades Pittsburgh has been rebuilding its economy based on hopes for our people and our future, not on outdated fantasies about our past,” Mayor Peduto said. “The City and its many partners will continue to do the same, despite the President’s imprudent announcements yesterday.”
Whether or not the city’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement has helped drive renewable energy investment, I’ll let clean energy historians be the judge of that. Further, we’ll only really see whether Vivint Solar has overstretched itself in its continued drive to expand its services over the next few months, when we see its second and third quarter financial results published. Many analysts are advising “holds” or “sells” on Vivint Solar shares, but at the moment a lot relies on how the company’s finances shake out through the mid-quarters of the year.
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