Tesla's stock has had such a good year in 2020 that it's worth asking if the upside for investors is worth the price. Shares trade at over 14 times sales and minuscule earnings make the P/E ratio astronomical. Still, investors love the long-term potential of Tesla because of its ability to disrupt the energy sector.
But Tesla isn't the only disruptive renewable energy stock on the market, and there are opportunities to find growth in much smaller stocks. Bloom Energy (NYSE:BE), Enphase Energy (NASDAQ:ENPH), and Atlantica Sustainable Infrastructure (NASDAQ:AY) all have a lot of long-term potential, and three of our energy contributors think they're better buys than shares of Tesla today.
The future of energy
Travis Hoium (Bloom Energy): Tesla has been a disruptor in the auto industry and Bloom Energy could be just as disruptive in the electricity market in the long term. It's not making energy from renewable sources per se, but rather introducing new ways to store and consume renewable energy.
The company recently announced an industrial electrolyzer that will turn electricity (wind or solar for renewable energy) and water into hydrogen. This hydrogen will then be used as fuel for the fuel cells the company makes to produce electricity that's used on site.
This electrolyzer and fuel cell dynamic allows Bloom Energy to build a large-scale energy storage system that can be used in commercial buildings, utilities, and even on large transportation locations like ships. In fact, Bloom Energy recently announced a partnership with Samsung Heavy Industries to develop clean-power ships. It's these new, innovative markets that could make Bloom Energy so disruptive in the long term.
Bloom Energy hasn't been public for long and is still losing money every quarter, but it's disrupting an energy business worth trillions. And even capturing 1% of the electricity market could make this a multibagger for investors.
If you're looking for a company that could be the next Tesla, Bloom Energy is a company worth keeping your eyes on.
A long runway ahead
Howard Smith (Enphase Energy): By almost any measure, Tesla's valuation is based on speculating what it will do beyond electric vehicles in the future. This would likely include success in its solar and energy storage businesses.
Enphase Energy, though, is successfully growing those very businesses already. Investors can measure progress and profit, and a long runway for growth makes it a better renewable energy play than Tesla from here.
Enphase is a leading supplier of solar microinverters, which are used to convert direct current energy at the solar panel into the alternating current used in the home. The company had been robustly growing its sales and profitability prior to disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic. But continued progress with growing the product offerings should produce results as economies get past pandemic-driven slowdowns.
The company initiated shipments of its new Enphase Encharge energy storage system in June for a limited number of installers to begin pilot runs. Enphase has also continued to expand its geographic footprint. It began shipping its latest generation of microinverters in August to Australia and Europe for both residential and commercial solar customers. Most recently, it announced new partnerships with three solar distribution companies in Belgium and the Netherlands, adding to its presence in European markets.
Growth and expansion are coming off an already strong base. Along with strong sales growth has come improved profitability over the past several years.
The Encharge storage systems are the latest in the Enphase ecosystem that has now grown to include the microinverters, the storage system, its Enlighten system monitoring platform, and its Envoy communications gateways.
The energy storage market is estimated to grow to over $500 billion by 2035, according to industry publication Solar Industry. It cites a research study saying that residential storage will lead the growth, with a compound annual growth rate of 76%.
Investors looking for a promising way to ride the growth in solar energy have an already solid base, and a growing platform, in Enphase Energy. That's a better way to bet on renewable energy than with what Tesla might do.
A winner in any solar market environment
Jason Hall (Atlantica Sustainable Infrastructure): One of the most difficult parts of successfully investing in solar is understanding the cyclical and highly competitive nature of the industry, and how it can seriously affect who can make money, and when.
Manufacturing solar panels is the hardest way to make money in the solar business. Global demand is largely driven by utility-scale projects, which aren't consistent from one period to the next like residential and commercial distributed solar. And this can be problematic for solar panel makers, due to relatively high fixed manufacturing costs that can result in big losses when demand softens. Next, price is the biggest factor for utility-scale project owners. Cheaper panels, on a per-watt basis, generally win most deals, so most panel makers are constantly in a technology war to drive up efficiency and drive down costs.
So it's a cyclical industry in a constant race for the bottom that intensifies when demand is soft and manufacturers fight hardest to keep their factories running. That's going to weigh on Tesla's ability to ever be a leader in the solar panel industry, even as the greater trend is for growth.
But Atlantica Sustainable is built to profit from both the bigger trend and from the solar panel industry's dynamics. As a renewable-energy producer, it makes money on long-term contracts that generate steady, dependable cash flows. And when panel prices fall, Atlantica's cost of capital improves. Atlantica is also set to benefit from Tesla's innovations in battery storage, while Tesla will constantly face price competition that erodes its margins on another commodity.
So while Tesla has yet to prove itself as a solar investment, Atlantica is already delivering with a sizable 6% dividend yield that's well supported by its steady cash flows and a massive pipeline of growth as renewable energy supplants hydrocarbons and energy storage becomes cost-effective.
Great ways to invest in renewable energy growth
Bloom Energy, Enphase Energy, and Atlantica Sustainable all have their own niche in renewable energy that's driving long-term growth. And each has its own way of disrupting traditional electricity markets, just like Tesla did with automobiles. If you think Tesla stock has gone too high too fast, these are great stocks to look at as high-potential alternatives.