It's been a rough few months for renewable energy stocks. Macroeconomic shifts have induced traders to sell off growth stocks in favor of value, and the green energy space specifically was hit particularly hard hit as the Build Back Better bill stalled in Congress. But the industry is still growing quickly, and has always adapted to changing political conditions.
As 2022 approaches, we asked three Fool.com contributors to offer their picks for top renewable energy stocks to buy for next year. They found SunPower (SPWR 0.90%), Atlantica Sustainable Infrastructure (AY 0.65%), and ChargePoint Holdings (CHPT 3.27%) to be a cut above the rest.
The residential solar play
Travis Hoium (SunPower): In 2021, I think we saw a shift in how consumers see electricity markets and their own energy independence. Not only are residential solar installations in the U.S. at record highs, an increasing percentage of customers are also adding energy storage and EV charging to their installations. This plays to SunPower's strengths as an energy solutions company.
SunPower has shed its solar module manufacturing business, its utility-scale solar business, and is in the process of finding strategic alternatives for its commercial solar business. That leaves its focus squarely on residential solar, and it shows. Its non-GAAP gross margin per watt for residential projects jumped from $0.46 to $0.69 over the past year. At the same time, its net recourse debt declined from $428 million to $154 million.
Fewer subsidies may be bad news for solar energy companies, but that won't halt the industry's growth nor will it eliminate people's desire to buy rooftop solar systems or EV chargers. I think SunPower is well-positioned to ride the coming wave of growth, and that's why I think 2022 will be a great year for the stock.
Growth at a reasonable price
Howard Smith (Atlantica Sustainable Infrastructure): Nations and businesses around the world are increasingly investing in renewable energy infrastructure. As that infrastructure grows, so too do the power purchase agreements that companies are signing with owners of those assets to bolster sustainability initiatives. The majority of Atlantica Sustainable's power generation comes from renewable energy, but it also has efficient natural gas plants and owns electricity transmission lines and water desalination facilities.
Most of its renewable energy comes from solar assets, and all of those are generating revenues under long-term contracts. For investors, that means the company's dividend, which at current share prices yields around 4.8%, should be reliable. In fact, over the first nine months of 2021, its cash available for distribution increased 12.9% year over year. Its revenues grew 8.4% in the same period, excluding foreign currency impacts and a non-recurring project.
Renewables contributed 77% of Atlantica's revenue through Sept. 30. In addition to North America, the company has assets in South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. But the vast majority of its 2021 new investments have been in North America. Thanks to the recently enacted infrastructure bill and the potential passage of legislation routing additional funds to U.S. renewable energy development, there should be no lack of assets with which to grow in coming years.
Atlantica Sustainable also looks like a good value compared to its peers right now. The charts below show its dividend yield exceeds that of two other renewable energy asset owners, and it trades at a more favorable valuation.
Through 2025, the company expects 73% of its cash available for distribution to come from renewable assets, and geographically, almost half will come from North America. Given the company's assets and investments in a region that has committed to growing its renewable energy sources, this is a good time to own Atlantica Sustainable Infrastructure.
Electrify your 2022 portfolio with this EV charging stock
Daniel Foelber (ChargePoint Holdings): If you step back and think about the ongoing national transition from vehicles powered by internal combustion to those powered by electricity, it quickly becomes clear the U.S. is going to need far more electric vehicle (EV) chargers. That's why $7.5 billion of President Biden's Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is earmarked for expanding the nation's EV charging capabilities. Like many industries dependent on hardware and high costs, the risk for businesses in this space is that EV chargers will become commoditized, and that businesses and consumers will simply choose the providers that offer the lowest-cost solutions.
ChargePoint can't bypass this risk, but it has done a great job building a vertically integrated, capital-light business, and it's now the U.S. leader in its niche. In the case of ChargePoint, "capital-light" means that it doesn't need to spend heavily to grow its revenue because it sells its hardware upfront. Over time, its growing charging network should generate greater recurring revenue through software subscriptions. But for now, subscriptions account for less than 30% of total revenue.
ChargePoint expects its business to grow in lockstep with U.S. EV sales. Despite their growth, so far, EVs are only on course to account for 4% of U.S. car sales in 2021, compared to 9% in China and 14% in Europe. That leaves plenty of room for ChargePoint's business to scale and reach profitability.
As ChargePoint waits for EV adoption to accelerate, it has built a larger and more sophisticated network of charging ports. As of Oct. 31, it had 163,000 activated ports around the world, roughly 7% of which are DC fast-charging ports. For comparison, consider that the Tesla Supercharger network consists of just over 30,000 fast-charging ports.
Management has forecast that ChargePoint will finish its fiscal 2022 (which ends on Jan. 31) with annual revenues of between $235 million and $240 million -- up more than 60% from fiscal 2021. Also impressive is the company's non-GAAP gross margin, which was 27% in the fiscal third quarter compared to 20% in the prior-year period. ChargePoint stands out as a fast-growing business that will flex its industry-leading position to pull away from the competition.
Still a bright future ahead
Renewable energy stocks may not be ending 2021 on a high note, but that doesn't mean the long-term trends aren't heading in the right direction. Wind, solar, and EVs are all growing, and that should help these stocks outperform the market in the years to come.