Tesla analyst says election 'injects new risk' into sustainable energy and clean tech

Fabian Bimmer | Reuters

Republican victories in Tuesday's election inject new risks into investments in sustainable energy and clean tech companies, according to one top analyst.

"[Donald] Trump's surprise victory last night, in tandem with Republicans maintaining majority control of both houses of Congress, constitutes in our view a material negative for the majority of our stocks under coverage," said Oppenheimer analyst Colin Rusch, in a research note Wednesday.

Rusch covers a number of solar energy firms, companies that develop technologies for energy efficiency, waste and recycling companies, as well as alternative transportation companies such as Tesla.

"We expect shares broadly to trade off today at higher magnitude than equity indices and believe the election outcome injects significant policy uncertainty into the growth outlook for multiple verticals, with solar/alternative transportation plays the most impacted," Rusch said in the note.

Elsewhere, Rusch's outlook is likewise not uniformly negative, but he identifies a few policy issues that could pose trouble for some of the companies he covers.

First, the election places the Clean Power Plan at risk. A Trump presidency and Republican control of Congress could lead to a rollback of the plan, adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2014, as a means to combat climate change by limiting emissions from power plants. Rolling back the CPP could pose "contagion risk to global renewable and energy efficiency investments," Rusch's note said.

Trump has repeatedly expressed skepticism over climate change, once famously calling it a Chinese hoax designed to undermine U.S. manufacturing.


Along these lines, Rusch and his colleagues said they "would not be surprised to see a Trump administration attempt to block federal support for EV buyers but could provide support for companies such as TSLA that are creating US manufacturing jobs."

Tesla shares were recently trading down more than 4 percent, at $186.38.

Rusch's concerns are particularly striking, given the fact that Tesla Chairman and CEO (and SolarCity Chairman) Elon Musk said in an interview with CNBC on Nov. 4 that he did not think the outcome of the election would "make much of a difference one way or the other" to Tesla's business.

Elon Musk on the election: Not the finest moment in our democracy

Residential solar power companies could face a more challenging regulatory climate as well as weakened demand due to greater support for coal power. This could have implications for companies such as First Solar and SunPower, as well as others.

Solar stocks also were lower Wednesday with SolarCity down 5.7 percent, First Solar down 2.7 percent and SunPower shedding nearly 15 percent.

In perhaps better news for solar firms, Rusch noted that the defeat of Florida Amendment 1 was a positive for the industry, as the amendment could have been used by utility companies to raise costs for solar power users.

A Trump administration could also weaken or repeal the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, enacted by Congress in 1975 to improve the fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks. A rollback of the Cafe standards could create trouble for companies that make fuel efficiency technologies, such as Johnson Controls, Ideal Power and Maxwell Technologies.

However, the note also said Johnson Controls might just as well benefit from spending growth, along with other efficiency technology providers, like Hannon Armstrong, Ameresco and other companies specializing in energy efficiency or related businesses, such as LED-light makers Cree and Energy Focus.

As the country continues to digest the results, Rusch would "not be surprised by a disappointing 4Q16/early 2017 as business and consumers reassess their financial positions."