In recent years, analysts have debated whether alternative energy stocks are directly correlated to the price of crude oil. The thinking goes that pricier oil pushes renewable energy companies higher, as investors and consumers search for cheaper alternatives to fossil fuels.
But for a host of reasons, the link between solar and crude prices has begun to break down completely. The uncoupling highlights how, after years of false starts, renewables may finally be coming into their own as an investment class.
"The correlations in the past [between crude and alternative energy] have been very high, but in the last year they have dropped significantly," said Leo Kelly, partner and managing partner at HighTower's Kelly Wealth Management.
With a coefficient of "1" meaning direct correlation, Kelly said solar stocks traded as high as 0.7 to the price of oil just a few years ago, but in the last year that correlation has collapsed to virtually nil. At its peak, the renewable/crude link was nearly as high as the relationship between oil and big oil companies like ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, whose correlation to crude ran as high as 0.9 percent late last year.