SolarCity's Holiday Announcement: The Gift Of Clean Energy For Schools Around The World
Officially known as the Give Power Foundation, SolarCity launched the charity after learning that more than 1.4 billion people do not have access to electricity. Worldwide, roughly 291 million children attend primary schools that don't have power.
"I think it's a very noble effort," Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov told Benzinga. "Obviously corporate giving, corporate charity is always nice to see. I think SolarCity should be applauded for contributing these products to developing countries."
Historically, Molchanov said that people have gotten around its "lack of access to the [power] grid" by burning diesel, which is dirty, expensive and potentially dangerous. The World Bank and other international charity groups have begun to replace diesel with small solar systems.
"It's nice to see SolarCity joining in that effort," said Molchanov.
Not everyone was happy with the announcement, however. On Twitter (where the announcement was made during the company's first live chat), the sentiment was somewhat mixed:
— Itai Hillary Zimwara (@itaizimwara) December 17, 2013
#SolarCityChat I do not condone corporations giving donations because I feel it's better done by individuals. But your stock is lookin good
— Jeff A (@The_Kid1987) December 17, 2013
Investor Response? Not Really
Investors should not be fooled into thinking that SolarCity's recent gains can be attributed to the Give Power Foundation announcement.
"Trust me, the stock is not up because of this," said Molchanov. "This is not something that SolarCity will make money from. This is corporate giving. It's a very nice charitable effort on the part of SolarCity to give back to disadvantage communities in low-income countries. This is not about profit. It's giving charitable donations. I don't think this is something where the stock will go up or down on the news. But it's a very noble effort for them to take part in."
SolarCity can currently be found in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Washington and Washington D.C.
Molchanov said that solar power works well in these and other markets that have above-average retail dollar prices.
"It does not make economic sense in states that have cheap retail power, which would include many of the Rocky Mountain States -- Montana, South Dakota," he said. "Also, many of the southern states like Georgia, South Carolina. Electricity is so cheap that residential solar doesn't offer very attractive economics. It would be unrealistic and frankly pointless for any of these companies to take a completely national approach."
The economics might eventually work out to where SolarCity could be helpful to residents all over the country. But that hasn't happened yet.
"Power prices go up over time," Molchanov added. "The U.S. national average retail power price has increased every year for the last 10 years. By 2020, the [$0.12 per kWh] average is likely to be quite a bit higher. Then of course, the economics of solar keep getting better because of cheaper panels, cheaper installation costs as well. Eventually, I see no reason why solar could not make sense even in places like [South] Dakota and South Carolina, but not today -- probably not anytime soon."
That hasn't stopped investors from pouring into the stock, however.
Year-to-date, SolarCity is up more than 320 percent.
Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Louis Bedigian had no position in the equities mentioned in this report.
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