Sunrun raises 2021 guidance after Q1 installs break seasonal records

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Sunrun also backed its market-leader position to help offset any supply chain constraints. Image: Sunrun.

Sunrun has increased its guidance for 2021 after a first quarter performance which has put the company on track to record its best ever year, CEO Lynn Jurich said.

Reporting Q1 2021 performance late yesterday, Sunrun revealed that it installed 167.6MW of rooftop solar in the three-month period ended 31 March 2021, a 73% increase on the 97MW it installed in Q1 2020. Pro-forma to the addition of Vivint Solar, installed capacity was up 9% year-on-year for the quarter.

The performance is only 2.3% shy of the record 171.6MW Sunrun installed in Q4 2021, regardless of any seasonality that would otherwise drag on installs in the first quarter. The company’s direct-to-home sales channel, channel partner business and home builder segment all reported all-time record volumes in Q1 2021.

Sunrun welcomed around 23,500 new customers during the quarter – around the same number of customers captured in Q4 2020 – taking the installer’s total cumulative customer base to around 573,600 and representative of year-on-year growth of 18%.

Revenue from solar energy systems and products in the quarter stood at US$160.2 million, a marginal increase on the US$156 million recorded in Q4 2020 but up 44% on the revenue recorded in corresponding quarter a year ago.

Tom vonReichbauer, CFO at Sunrun, said the momentum the company had generated in Q4 2020 had continued into 2021, recording seasonal volume records while contending with the ongoing integration of Vivint Solar, which it acquired last year. Sunrun also reiterated that it expects to realise cost synergies of around US$120 million relating to its acquisition of Vivint Solar by the end of the year.

There was also good news for Sunrun’s energy storage offering Brightbox. Cumulative installations passed the 20,000 mark during the quarter and attachment rates increased again in Q1 to a new record level, the company said, with Sunrun expecting Brightbox installations to double this year. Battery installations could have been even greater, the firm’s co-founder and executive chairman Ed Fenster said, were it not for “tightness” in the supply chain.

The strong performance has led Sunrun to upgrade its guidance for the year and the company expects its growth rate to stand between 25 – 30%, an increase on the prior 2021 growth guidance of between 20 – 25%. Furthermore, vonReichbauer told analysts yesterday that the company expects to record sequential quarterly growth in solar energy capacity installed in Q2 “well above 10%”.

The performance cements Sunrun’s status as the leading residential solar installer in the US, a position which the company told analysts yesterday would stand it in good stead to contend with any potential supply chain constraints later in the year.

While PV module prices are set to rise on the back of ongoing polysilicon supply constraints, solar inverters are being beset by a semiconductor shortage which is constraining manufacturing output. Late last month microinverter supplier Enphase Energy noted that demand for its products far outstripped supply as it rushed to source new suppliers of two particular semiconductor chips used in its product range.

On a conference call with analysts yesterday, vonReichbauer said that Sunrun considered itself to be “well insulated” to the emerging situation in the supply chain, noting that its position as the market leader in the US meant it had a “pretty important customer position” with manufacturers. Additionally the company’s supply contracts have penalties for non-delivery of orders, while Sunrun also took the decision to increase its inventory levels in response to the situation.

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