Donald Trump has called global warming a hoax fostered by China to hamper America's competitiveness. For Secretary of State, Trump has tapped ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, a long-time oilman who has viewed climate change and renewable energy as threats to his company's bottom line.
Trump also embraces the coal industry, vowing to end President Obama's alleged "war on coal." The president-elect even named former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to head the U.S. Department of Energy, an agency that candidate Perry during a presidential debate infamously forgot that he wanted to abolish.
Neither Trump nor Perry seem to realize that the Energy Department has just as much to do with safeguarding the nation's nuclear arsenal as it does with overseeing the energy industry.
So, this must be a really bad time for solar power, right? Wrong! Not even the president of the United States can reverse the unstoppable rise of alternative energy, solar in particular.
As investors hammer solar power stocks following Trump's surprise election, now's the time to pick up the two small-cap solar stalwarts examined below. Both SunPower (SPWR - Get Report) and Canadian Solar (CSIQ - Get Report) are trading at bargain valuations and they should emerge unscathed by Trump's "anti-green" energy policies.
The fact is that the White House can exert only so much influence over the energy industry, especially electricity generation. What's more, the coal industry is permanently on the skids and unlikely to turnaround, as this dirty fuel increasingly gets replaced by cleaner, cheaper and abundant natural gas.
To be sure, federal subsidies for renewable and solar energy probably will get gutted by Trump and the GOP-run Congress. But while the solar industry likes governmental help, it's way past the point of needing it.
The infrastructure for the solar industry is firmly in place and irreversible, leading to a "price decoupling" of solar and fossil fuels. Solar and other renewable energies are now part of the energy status quo and no longer need high oil and gas prices to entice customers. Nonetheless, investors are skittish about solar.
Since Trump eked out an Electoral College victory on Nov. 8, the Guggenhein Solar ETF has declined 5.5%. Over the past year, TAN has plummeted 44.4%. The industry now appears oversold and poised for a breakout. One of the surest paths to wealth is to bet against the fallacies of the crowd; now's the time to bet on solar's turnaround.
The solar industry's growth should resume in 2017, despite the fossil fuel friendly Trump administration, as developing countries such as China and India plow resources into renewable energy and the price of photovoltaic (PV) cells continues to drop. The European Union also has ambitious plans in place to invest in solar power, especially in the EU's growth engine of Germany, which is phasing out nuclear power in favor of solar.
Let's take a look at SunPower and Canadian Solar in ascending order of risk:
With a market cap of $919.8 million, SunPower is the second-biggest company among PV solar panel makers. SunPower's niche is the design and installation of large, extremely efficient panel arrays, which are in great demand in developing and developed nations alike. The company's roster of clients includes countries in the Middle East that are trying to diversify away from their over-dependence on oil.
SunPower focuses on utility-scale solar power plants, because they allow the company to confer its value-added and higher margin engineering prowess. SunPower boasts huge projects underway in North America, Europe and Japan.
With a trailing 12-month price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) of -2.82, SunPower is a shining bargain compared to the trailing P/E of 75.2 for its industry. SPWR shares now trade at $6.85; the average analyst one-year price target is $12.12, which would be a gain of about 77%.
With a market cap of $714.8 billion, Canadian Solar produces solar ingots, wafers, cells, modules, and integrated power systems.
The company is legally based in Ontario, Canada, but the bulk of its manufacturing facilities are headquartered in China. This duality allows the company to keep overhead low by manufacturing in China but it sidesteps many of the headaches of investing in a China-headquartered entity. The company's Canadian identity also reassures investors concerned about financial transparency.
Canadian Solar is emphasizing growth opportunities in emerging markets as well as developed countries in the EU. With a trailing P/E of 5.1, Canadian Solar is an inexpensive way to tap solar's enormous growth opportunities. Shares now trade at $12.66; the average analyst one-year price target is $15.72, which would be a gain of about 25%.
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