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Zacks Industry Outlook Highlights: DTE Energy, NRG Energy, Amazon, SunPower and First Solar

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – December 14, 2017 – Today, Zacks Equity Research discusses the Semiconductors, including DTE Energy Company DTE, NRG Energy Inc. NRG, Amazon AMZN, SunPower Corp. SPWR and First Solar Inc. FSLR.

Industry: Alternative Energy, Part 2

Link:   https://www.zacks.com/commentary/140019/alternative-energy-shines-on-renewed-hopes-investments

Despite the uncertainty related to U.S. tax policy or commitment to fight climate change, the momentum achieved by the renewable energy sector is unlikely to subside.

Contracts from small- to medium-sized companies are expected to continue flowing in, even if large corporations choose to tread cautiously. The declining cost of energy storage should also continue to aid the penetration of renewable resources.

The underlying driver for each of these market trends is significant customer demand for renewables. It is expected that the renewable space will continue to innovate in 2018 to offer consumers clean, affordable renewable energy. This should help stocks in this space maintain their strong momentum in the New Year.

Stocks in the Zacks Alternative Energy industry, part of the Zacks Oil/Energy sector, were up 28.4% in the last year compared with a rally of 23.4% for the Oil/Energy sector and 17.8% gain for the S&P 500 index. This shows that the Trump administration’s less-than-enthusiastic support hasn’t harmed the industry’s prospects.

The major advantage of using renewable energy is that there will be no dearth of supply. Also, renewable energy facilities usually need less maintenance compared with traditional generators. The fact that the fuel is derived from natural and existing resources reduces the cost of operations. Apart from this, there are hardly any waste products generated by renewable energy such as carbon dioxide or other chemical pollutants. Therefore, its negative impact on the environment is minimal.

Solar and wind – two major alternative energy sources – are gradually transforming the way we produce and consume energy, driving the ongoing global energy transition. Although some better-established sources of alternative energy – hydro, wind, biomass and waste, not to mention solar PV – are supported extensively, niche renewable energy sources such as geothermal and concentrated solar power (“CSP”) are also on the rise, natural conditions permitting.

Wind and solar are not only essential when it comes to reducing carbon emissions but also have a remarkable contribution in saving lives. This is because these renewable sources edge out fossil fuels and reduce air pollutants in addition to carbon emissions. This leads to improved air quality, with a corresponding drop in premature deaths.

According to recent reports, renewable energy has surpassed nuclear power as a percentage of U.S. energy generation. Declining cost of solar generation is anticipated to be the driving factor behind a dramatic increase in renewable power.

Again, the extension of key renewable tax credits and reduced solar photovoltaic (PV) capital costs  are expected to drive growth of alternative energy.

Moreover, former President Obama’s "Climate Change Action Plan," which is still valid, has propelled the sector northward. Efforts to restrict carbon emissions are a positive for renewable energy stocks. As per U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2016, CO2 emissions declined 1.6%. Energy-related CO2 emissions are expected to decline 0.8% in 2017.

The plan urged utility providers to gradually shift their mode of power generation to solar, wind and water. Some of these utilities include DTE Energy Company (DTE) and NRG Energy Inc. (NRG). While DTE Energy sports a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), NRG Eenrgy carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 (Strong Buy) Rank stocks here.

The EIA observes that even if the Trump administration abolishes the Clean Power Plan, the renewable space will continue to grow in the United States albeit at a slower rate. EIA projects U.S. renewable generation capacity to grow by an average of 1.9% per year between 2017 and 2050.

Apart from this, Francesco Starace, chief executive of Italy-based Enel, the largest European power company, said that investment in renewable energy across the globe, including the United States, will continue to grow regardless of the new U.S. administration’s full support. He added that Enel has plans to invest €5.2 billion in renewable generation, mainly wind and solar power, both in Europe and the United States over the next three years.

Realizing growth opportunities in the renewable energy space, companies from other domains have also expressed their interest to invest in solar stocks. In line with this, e-commerce giant Amazon (AMZN) plans to bring online five new solar farms, totaling 180 megawatts (MW), to help power its massive cloud data centers. The new solar facilities, located in Virginia, will be connected to the grid by the end of 2017. Amazon also has other renewable projects underway, which will be completed by this year.

Here we take a look at the alternative energy space and attempt to identify this nascent industry's strengths.

Extension of ITC: Solar and wind energy got a major boost from the environmental tax credit extension that came as part of the $1.15 trillion federal spending bill in December 2105, which also lifted a 40-year ban on exporting American crude oil. The latest report from EIA also shows that renewable energy will be the fastest growing power source through 2040, accounting for 27% of total U.S. generation.

On Dec 15, 2015, Congress passed an extension and modification of federal tax credits for new wind and solar generators. The new environmental tax credit extension allows solar power companies to keep claiming federal Investment Tax Credits ("ITC") at 30% of the price of solar energy systems installed by businesses or homeowners. The ITC, which was earlier set to expire at the end of 2016, rushed developers to finish projects. Now they look good through 2019 with the five-year extension. However, the credit will start to decline, going down to 10% in 2022.

Moreover, the wind power industry benefited significantly from the production tax credit (“PTC”) extension. The PTC, which had expired in 2014 end due to Congressional gridlock, was extended through 2020. However, the PTC that pays 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated will be gradually reduced over the next four years before being completely phased out.

The EIA projects that utility-scale solar capacity will increase almost 10 gigawatts (GW) between 2017 and 2018 in the United States, given considerable rise in renewables consumption for electricity and heat generation purpose. California, along with North Carolina, Nevada, Texas and Georgia, will account for most of the projected utility-scale capacity additions over the period.

The EIA expects wind energy capacity additions of 14 GW in 2017-2018. With these additions, total wind capacity will reach 96 GW by the end of 2018.

Anti-Dumping Duties and Solar Trade War: Washington imposed import duties on solar panels and other related products from China and Taiwan. The U.S. believes that Chinese manufacturers have benefited from unfair subsidies offered by their government. U.S. solar stocks like SunPower Corp. and First Solar Inc. are expected to make the most of the trade conflict between the United States and China.

The U.S. Department of Commerce (“DOC”), in Dec 2014, set anti-dumping duties at about 52% on most module imports from China and at 19.5% on most imports of Taiwanese cells. It also slapped 39% anti-subsidy tariffs on most China-made panels. The move was intended to stop Chinese companies from using solar cells made in Taiwan to avoid paying higher tariffs.

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit https://www.zacks.com/performancefor information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.


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