Attached files

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EX-32.2 - EX-32.2 - Vivint Solar, Inc.vslr-ex322_6.htm
EX-32.1 - EX-32.1 - Vivint Solar, Inc.vslr-ex321_10.htm
EX-31.2 - EX-31.2 - Vivint Solar, Inc.vslr-ex312_13.htm
EX-31.1 - EX-31.1 - Vivint Solar, Inc.vslr-ex311_8.htm
EX-23.1 - EX-23.1 - Vivint Solar, Inc.vslr-ex231_323.htm
EX-21.1 - EX-21.1 - Vivint Solar, Inc.vslr-ex211_235.htm
EX-10.42 - EX-10.42 - Vivint Solar, Inc.vslr-ex1042_580.htm
EX-10.41 - EX-10.41 - Vivint Solar, Inc.vslr-ex1041_579.htm
EX-10.31 - EX-10.31 - Vivint Solar, Inc.vslr-ex1031_489.htm
EX-4.2 - EX-4.2 - Vivint Solar, Inc.vslr-ex42_215.htm

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

(Mark One)

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019

OR

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

Commission File Number 001-36642

 

VIVINT SOLAR, INC.

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its Charter)

 

 

Delaware

 

45-5605880

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

 

(I.R.S. Employer
Identification No.)

1800 West Ashton Blvd.

Lehi, UT

 

84043

(Address of principal executive offices)

 

(Zip Code)

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (877) 404-4129

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

Title of each class

 

Trading

Symbol(s)

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Stock, par value $0.01 per share

 

VSLR

 

New York Stock Exchange

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes  No 

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act. Yes  No 

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes  No 

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to submit such files). Yes  No 

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Large accelerated filer

 

  

Accelerated filer

 

 

 

 

 

Non-accelerated filer

 

  

Smaller reporting company

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emerging growth company

 

 

 

 

 

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the Registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.  

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).  Yes  No 

The aggregate market value of the voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the Registrant, based on the closing price of the shares of common stock on the New York Stock Exchange on June 28, 2019, the last business day of the Registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter, was approximately $331.9 million.

The number of shares of Registrant’s common stock outstanding as of March 1, 2020 was 124,158,478.

Portions of the Registrant’s Definitive Proxy Statement relating to the Annual Meeting of Stockholders, scheduled to be held on June 10, 2020, are incorporated by reference into Part III of this report.

 

 

 


Table of Contents

 

 

 

Page

PART I

 

 

Item 1.

Business

1

Item 1A.

Risk Factors

8

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

37

Item 2.

Properties

37

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

37

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

37

 

 

 

PART II

 

 

Item 5.

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

38

Item 6.

Selected Financial Data

38

Item 7.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

38

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

54

Item 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

55

Item 9.

Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

95

Item 9A.

Controls and Procedures

95

Item 9B.

Other Information

95

 

 

 

PART III

 

 

Item 10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

96

Item 11.

Executive Compensation

96

Item 12.

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

96

Item 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

96

Item 14.

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

96

 

 

 

PART IV

 

 

Item 15.

Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules

97

 

 

 

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PART I

 

Forward-looking Statements

This report, including the sections entitled “Business,” “Risk Factors,” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and certain information incorporated by reference into this report contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Forward-looking statements are identified by words such as “believe,” “anticipate,” “expect,” “intend,” “plan,” “will,” “may,” “seek” and other similar expressions. You should read these statements carefully because they discuss future expectations, contain projections of future results of operations or financial condition or state other “forward-looking” information. These statements relate to our future plans, objectives, expectations, intentions and financial performance and the assumptions that underlie these statements.

These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to:

 

federal, state and local regulations and policies governing the electric utility industry;

 

the regulatory regime for our offerings and for third-party owned solar energy systems;

 

technical limitations imposed by operators of the power grid;

 

the continuation of rebates, tax credits and incentives, including changes to the rates of the U.S. federal investment tax credit, or ITC, beginning in 2020;

 

the price of utility-generated electricity and electricity from other sources;

 

our ability to finance the installation of solar energy systems;

 

our ability to efficiently install and interconnect solar energy systems to the power grid;

 

our ability to manage growth, product offering mix and costs;

 

our ability to further penetrate existing markets and expand into new markets;

 

our ability to develop new product offerings and distribution channels;

 

our relationships with our sister company Vivint Smart Home, Inc., or Vivint, and The Blackstone Group L.P., our Sponsor;

 

our ability to manage our supply chain;

 

the cost of equipment and the residual value of solar panels after the expiration of our customer contracts;

 

the course and outcome of litigation, government or regulatory investigations and other disputes; and

 

our ability to maintain our brand and protect our intellectual property.

In combination with the risk factors we have identified, we cannot assure you that the forward-looking statements in this report will prove to be accurate. Further, if our forward-looking statements prove to be inaccurate, the inaccuracy may be material. In light of the significant uncertainties in these forward-looking statements, you should not regard these statements as a representation or warranty by us or any other person that we will achieve our objectives and plans in any specified time frame, or at all, or as predictions of future events. Moreover, neither we nor any other person assumes responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of the forward-looking statements. We undertake no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.

Item 1. Business.

BUSINESS

Overview

We were incorporated as Vivint Solar, Inc., a Delaware corporation, in 2011. We offer distributed solar energy — electricity generated by a solar energy system installed at or near customers’ locations — to residential customers primarily through a customer-focused and neighborhood-driven direct-to-home sales model. Through investment funds, we own a substantial majority of the solar energy systems we install and provide solar electricity pursuant to long-term contracts with our customers. Additionally, we wholly own a smaller number of solar energy systems outside of investment funds. We also sell solar energy systems outright to customers.

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Customers that enter long-term contracts pay little to no money upfront, typically receive savings on solar-generated electricity rates relative to utility-generated electricity rates following system interconnection to the power grid and continue to benefit from locked-in energy prices over the term of their contracts, insulating them against unpredictable increases in utility rates. The majority of these customers sign 20-year contracts for solar electricity generated by our systems and pay us directly over the term of their contracts.

Our 20-year and, beginning in 2020, 25-year customer contracts generate predictable, recurring cash flows and establish a long-term relationship with homeowners. As of December 31, 2019 the average estimated nominal contracted payment for our long-term customer contracts was approximately $29,600, and there is the potential for additional payments if customers choose to renew their contracts at the end of the term. The ownership of the solar energy systems we install under long-term customer contracts allows us and the other fund investors to benefit from various local, state and federal incentives. We obtain financing based on cash flows from customers and these incentives. When customers decide to move or sell the home prior to the end of their contract term, the customer contracts allow our customers to transfer their obligations to the new home buyer. If the home buyer does not wish to assume the customer’s obligations, the contract allows us to require the customer to purchase the system. Our sources of financing are used to offset our direct installation costs and our allocated overhead expenses. As of February 29, 2020, we had raised 28 investment funds to which investors such as banks and other large financial investors have committed to invest approximately $2.2 billion. The undrawn committed capital for these funds as of February 29, 2020 was approximately $133 million, which we estimate will fund approximately 59 megawatts of future deployments.

We also offer our customers the option to purchase solar energy systems for cash or through third-party loan financing. Selling solar energy systems allows us to meet the needs of customers who prefer to own the solar energy system and assume the long-term benefits and risks of system ownership. Customers who choose this option are generally eligible for various local, state and federal incentives, which may help to offset the cost of their solar energy system.

We have developed an integrated approach to providing residential distributed solar energy where we fully control the lifecycle of our customers’ experience including the initial professional consultation, design and engineering process, installation, and, where applicable, ongoing monitoring and service. We deploy our direct-to-home sales force on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, which allows us to cultivate a geographically concentrated customer base that reduces our costs and increases our operating efficiency. We also sell solar energy systems to customers through our inside sales team and through homebuilder and retail distribution channels. In addition, we have entered into various sales dealer agreements. We couple these sales channels with repeatable and scalable processes to establish warehouse facilities, assemble and train sales and installation teams and open new offices. We believe that our processes enable us to expand within existing markets and into new markets.

From our inception in May 2011 through December 31, 2019, we have installed solar energy systems with an aggregate of 1,294.0 megawatts of capacity at approximately 188,300 homes for an average solar energy system capacity of approximately 6.9 kilowatts.

Our Approach

The key elements of our integrated approach to providing distributed solar energy include:

 

Professional consultation. We provide professional consultations through our various sales channels to prospective customers to evaluate the feasibility of installing a solar energy system at their residence. We continue to acquire most of our customers through direct-to-home sales. We believe our sales closing and referral rates are enhanced by homeowners’ responsiveness to our direct-to-home, neighborhood-by-neighborhood outreach strategy.

 

Design and engineering. We have developed a process that enables us to design and install a custom solar energy system that typically delivers customer savings. This process, which incorporates proprietary software, standardized templates and data derived from on-site surveys, allows us to design each system to comply with complex and varied state and local regulations and optimize system performance on a per panel basis. We continue to pursue technology innovation to integrate accurate system design into the initial sales consultation process as a competitive tool to enhance the customer experience and increase sales close rates.

 

Installation. We are a licensed contractor in the markets we serve and are responsible for each customer installation. Once we complete the system design, we obtain the necessary building permits and begin installation. Upon completion, we schedule the required inspections and arrange for interconnection to the power grid. By directly handling these logistics, we control quality and streamline the system installation process for our customers. Throughout this process, we apprise our customers of the project status with regular updates from our account representatives.

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Monitoring and service. We monitor the performance of our solar energy systems, leveraging a combination of internally developed solutions as well as capabilities provided by our suppliers. Our systems use communication gateways and monitoring services to collect performance data, and we use this data to ensure that we deliver quality operations and maintenance services for our solar energy systems. If services are required, our strong local presence enables rapid response times.

 

Referrals. We believe our commitment to delivering customer satisfaction and our concentrated geographic deployment strategy have generated sales through customer referrals, which increase our neighborhood penetration rates and drive our growth. Our financial returns also benefit from the cost savings derived from increasing the density of installations in a neighborhood.

Our Strategy

Our goal is to become the premier provider of distributed solar energy. Key elements of our strategy include:

 

Building the most sustainable business in the residential solar industry. We are working to enhance the sustainability of our business by striving to improve the margins we generate on every system we install. We improve our margins by effectively managing our cost per watt while optimizing system attributes on the systems we install, by pricing appropriately in each market and by growing in the right markets. We seek to balance our growth against the operating cash flows and project funding required to offset our operating expenses.

 

Delighting our customers. We strive to provide a best-in-class customer experience. We offer customized solar energy solutions to each of our customers based on their individual situation and needs, and we continue to streamline the time from when a customer signs a contract to when their system is operational. We are also continually working to improve our processes and customer communication in an effort to provide superior customer service. Additionally, we employ a detailed quality assessment process to our installations to validate that we maintain a high installation standard.

 

Developing a differentiated solution. We aim to provide unique products in an increasingly commoditized industry, and we believe the market needs smart energy solutions that combine how energy is produced, made available and intelligently consumed. We have formed strategic relationships to develop and provide distinctive solutions to our customers, such as battery storage, electric vehicle charging products and generators.

 

Accessing capital on favorable terms. We partner with various investors to form investment funds that monetize the recurring customer payments under our long-term customer contracts, as well as the ITCs, accelerated tax depreciation and other incentives associated with residential solar energy systems. We have also entered into financing facilities to further monetize recurring cash flows and to fund solar energy system development. We plan to pursue additional debt, equity and other financing strategies in order to access capital on favorable terms to enable our continued growth.

 

Growing strategically. We operate in states whose utility prices, sun exposure, climate conditions and regulatory policies provide the most compelling markets for distributed solar energy. We plan to enlarge our addressable market by expanding our presence on a measured basis when and where favorable. Our investments into new sales channels such as the homebuilder and retail channels are designed to allow us to reach additional customers. Additionally, we will continue to maximize the value of the solar energy systems we install as well as continue to evaluate pricing to optimize our use of capital based on market conditions and utility rates.

Customer Contracts

Our primary product offerings include the following:

 

Power Purchase Agreements. Under power purchase agreements, or PPAs, we charge customers a fee per kilowatt hour based on the electricity production of the solar energy system, which is billed monthly. PPAs typically have a term of 20 years and, beginning in 2020, 25 years and are subject to an annual price escalator of 2.9%. Over the term of the PPA, we operate the system and agree to maintain it in good condition. Customers who buy energy from us under PPAs are covered by our workmanship warranty equal to the length of the term of these agreements.

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Legal-form Leases. Under legal-form leases, or Solar Leases, we charge customers a fixed monthly payment to lease the solar energy system, which is based on a calculation that accounts for expected solar energy generation. Solar Leases typically have a term of 20 years and, beginning in 2020, 25 years and are typically subject to an annual price escalator of 2.9%, though some markets offer Solar Leases with no annual price escalator. We provide our Solar Lease customers a performance guarantee under which we agree to refund certain payments to the customer if the solar energy system does not meet the guaranteed production level in the prior 12-month period. Over the term of the Solar Lease, we operate the system and agree to maintain it in good condition, and in some markets, we offer to install a battery storage system along with the solar energy system. Customers who lease equipment from us under Solar Leases are covered by our workmanship warranty equal to the length of the term of these agreements.

 

Solar Energy System Sales. Under solar energy system sales, or System Sales, we offer our customers the option to purchase solar energy systems for cash or through third-party financing. The price for these contracts is determined as a function of the respective market rate and the size of the solar energy system to be installed. Customers can additionally contract with us for certain structural upgrades, smart home products, battery storage systems, electric vehicle charging stations, generators and other accessories in connection with the installation of a solar energy system based on the market where they are located. We believe System Sales are advantageous to us as they provide immediate access to cash.

Of our 233.1 megawatts installed in 2019, approximately 67% were installed under PPAs, 16% were installed under Solar Leases and 17% were installed under System Sales. As of December 31, 2019, the average FICO score of our customers was approximately 755.

Sales and Marketing

We place our integrated solar energy systems through a scalable sales organization that relies primarily on a direct-to-home sales model. We believe that a direct, customer-facing sales model is important throughout our sales process to maximize our sales success and customer experience. The members of our sales force typically reside and work within the markets they support. We also generate sales volume through customer referrals. Customer referrals increase in relation to our penetration in a market and shortly after market entry become an increasingly effective way to market our solar energy systems.

In addition to direct sales, we sell to customers through our inside sales team, through various sales dealers, and through the homebuilder and retail distribution channels. We continue to explore opportunities to sell solar energy systems to customers through a number of other distribution channels, including relationships with real estate management companies, large construction, electrical and roofing companies and other third parties that have access to large numbers of potential solar customers, as well as direct to consumers through online sales.

Operations

Our corporate headquarters are located in Utah. We manage inventory through our local warehouses and maintain a fleet of over 900 trucks and other vehicles to support our installers and operations. In 2019, our field teams completed on average approximately 2,800 residential installations per month. We manage thousands of projects as they move through the stages of engineering, permitting, installation, maintenance and monitoring.

We offer a range of warranties to our investment funds on our solar energy systems under long-term customer contracts to ensure the solar energy systems remain productive. Under our workmanship warranty, we are obligated, at our cost and expense, to correct defects in our installation work, which depending on the particular investment fund, is for periods of five to 25 years. Generally, our maintenance obligations to our investment funds do not include the cost of panels, inverters or racking, should such major components require replacement. The cost of such components is borne instead by the applicable investment fund, although we are obligated to install such equipment as part of our services covered by the agreed maintenance services fee. We provide ongoing service and repairs to solar energy systems under PPAs and Solar Leases during the entire term of the customer relationship. We also agree to provide a workmanship warranty and maintain the solar energy systems we sell to customers through System Sales for a period of one to ten years. We expect the costs we incur in providing these services will continue to grow as the number of systems in our portfolio increases and as installed solar energy systems age.

Suppliers

We purchase solar panels, inverters and other system components from a limited number of suppliers. Substantially all of our solar panels and inverters are produced outside the United States. We generally source the other products related to our solar energy systems through a variety of suppliers and distributors.

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If we fail to develop, maintain and expand our relationships with these or other suppliers, our ability to meet anticipated demand for our solar energy systems may be adversely affected, or we may only be able to offer our systems at higher costs or after delays. To reduce risk, we have added suppliers in the module, inverter and racking product groups. If one or more of the suppliers that we rely upon to meet anticipated demand ceases or reduces production due to its financial condition, acquisition by a competitor or otherwise, it may be difficult to quickly identify alternative suppliers or to qualify alternative products on commercially reasonable terms, and our ability to satisfy this demand may be adversely affected.

Additionally, certain of the subcomponents of our equipment are sourced from Asia, including China and other countries in Southeast Asia that have been, or may be, significantly impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. As of the date of this report, we had not seen material impacts to our supply chain, but the situation is fluid. Supply chain disruptions could reduce the availability of key components, increase prices or both. If we fail to identify or to qualify alternative products on commercially reasonable terms our operating results and growth prospects would be adversely affected.

We screen all suppliers and components based on expected cost, reliability, warranty coverage, ease of installation and other ancillary costs. We typically enter into master contract arrangements with our major suppliers that define the general terms and conditions of our purchases, including warranties, product specifications, indemnities, licenses, delivery and other customary terms. We typically purchase solar panels, inverters and racking from our suppliers at then prevailing prices pursuant to purchase orders issued under our master contract arrangements. From time to time we find it advantageous to enter into purchase commitments with our suppliers.

Despite recent increases in solar panel prices due to the tariffs imposed since February 2018 and a general decrease in supply in the solar panel market, industry experts indicate that solar panel and raw material prices are expected to decline in the future. It is possible, however, that prices will not decline at the same rate as they have over the past several years or that prices may increase. In addition, growth in the solar industry in the United States and abroad and the resulting increase in demand for solar panels and the raw materials necessary to manufacture them may put upward pressure on prices.

The U.S. government has imposed duties and tariffs on solar cells and could impose additional tariffs on solar cells manufactured outside the United States or implement additional restraints on trade. In January 2018, the President of the United States announced the imposition of safeguard measures for a period of four years that include (1) a 30% tariff on imports of solar cells not partially or fully assembled into other products and (2) a 30% tariff on imported solar panels. The tariff on imported solar panels will decline 5% each year in the second, third and fourth years. The safeguard measures went into effect in February 2018 and apply to imports from all foreign countries, including Mexico and Canada, except certain developing countries that are members of the World Trade Organization. However, a mid-term review of the tariffs was sent to the President of the United States in February 2020, and the 5% reduction in 2021 and 2022 could be modified. The future of the tariffs is unknown at this time.

In September 2018, the President of the United States announced the imposition of tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods. Inverters imported from China are listed as subject to these duties. Tariffs of 10% on inverters went into effect on September 24, 2018, and the tariffs were increased to 25% in May 2019. We are currently seeing various responses from inverter suppliers to the 25% tariff, as they pass on various portions of the tariff to the purchaser through price increases.

Competition

We believe that our primary competitors are traditional utilities that supply electricity to our potential customers. We compete with these traditional utilities primarily based on price (cents per kilowatt hour), predictability of future prices (by providing pre-determined annual price escalations) and the ease by which customers can switch to electricity generated by our solar energy systems. We believe that we compete favorably with traditional utilities based on these factors in the markets where we operate.

We also compete with companies that are not regulated like traditional utilities but that have access to the traditional utility electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure pursuant to state and local pro-competitive and consumer choice policies and with solar companies with business models that are similar to ours such as Sunrun Inc. and Sunnova Energy International Inc. We believe that we compete favorably with these companies.

In addition, we face competition from purely finance driven organizations that acquire customers and then subcontract out the installation of solar energy systems, from installation businesses that seek financing from external parties, from large construction companies and utilities, and from electrical and roofing companies. We believe that we compete favorably with these companies since we offer an integrated approach to residential solar energy systems, which includes in-house sales, financing, engineering, installation, maintenance and monitoring.

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We also compete with solar companies that offer community solar products and utility companies that provide renewable power purchase programs. Some customers might choose to subscribe to a community solar project or renewable subscriber programs instead of installing a solar energy system on their home, which could affect our sales. Additionally, some utility companies (and some utility-like entities, such as community choice aggregators in California) have generation portfolios that are increasingly renewable in nature. We believe we compete favorably with these options.

Technology and Intellectual Property

We, directly or through our wholly owned subsidiary Solmetric Corporation, also known as Vivint Solar Labs, have a number of patents and pending applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. These patents and applications relate to shade and site analysis, installation and monitoring technologies. Our issued patents start expiring in 2026. We intend to file additional patent applications as we innovate through our research and development efforts. Vivint Solar Labs is our research and development team focused on technologies that we believe will benefit our business, as they have significant experience with photovoltaic hardware and installation instruments.

As part of our strategy, we may expand our technological capabilities through targeted acquisitions, licensing technology and intellectual property from third parties, joint development relationships with partners and suppliers and other strategic initiatives as we strive to offer the industry’s best operational efficiency, performance prediction, operations and management.

Government Regulation, Policies and Incentives

Government Regulation

Except as described below with respect to New York, we are not regulated as a public utility in any of the markets in which we currently operate. As a result, we are not subject to the various federal, state and local standards, restrictions and regulatory requirements applicable to traditional utilities that operate transmission and distribution systems and that have an obligation to serve electric customers within a specified jurisdiction.

In October 2017, the Public Service Commission of the State of New York, or the NYPSC, entered an order determining that residential rooftop solar energy providers are “electric corporations” (the term for electric utilities under New York state law) and requiring changes that will affect certain aspects of our business. The NYPSC expanded its original order of October 2017 in March 2019. The order, which is part of a broader proceeding before the NYPSC associated with regulating and overseeing distributed energy resource suppliers, is premised on the NYPSC’s determination that it has the jurisdiction to oversee certain aspects of our business, and businesses like ours, in the same way that it oversees public utilities. Though the NYPSC is, to our knowledge, the first state public commission to take the position that residential rooftop solar energy providers are subject to the same regulatory oversight as electric utilities, we understand from the Solar Energy Industries Association, or SEIA, that other public service commissions are following what is happening in New York and may take similar action depending on the outcome, and the consumer protection order entered by the California Public Utilities Commission in October 2018 is premised, in part, on the notion that the California Public Utilities Commission has authority to regulate certain aspects of rooftop solar energy providers.

Our operations are subject to stringent and complex federal, state and local laws, including regulations governing the occupational health and safety of our employees and wage regulations. We are subject to the requirements of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, as amended, or OSHA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, or DOT, and comparable state laws that protect and regulate employee health and safety. We strive to maintain compliance with applicable OSHA, DOT and similar government regulations; however, as discussed in the section captioned “Risk Factors—Compliance with occupational safety and health requirements and best practices can be costly, and noncompliance with such requirements may result in potentially significant monetary penalties, operational delays and adverse publicity,” there have been instances in which we have experienced workplace accidents and received citations from regulators, resulting in fines. Such instances have not materially impacted our business or relations with our employees.

Government Policies

Net metering is one of several key policies that have enabled the growth of distributed solar in the United States. Net metering allows homeowners to receive credit for the energy that their solar energy system generates in excess of that needed by the home to offset energy usage at times when the solar installation is not generating energy. In states that provide for net metering, the customer typically pays for the net energy used or receives a credit against future bills at the retail rate if more energy is produced by the solar energy system than consumed. In some states and utility territories, customers are also reimbursed by the electric utility for net excess generation on a periodic basis. Each of the states where we currently serve customers has adopted some form of a net metering policy.

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In recent years, net metering programs have been subject to regulatory scrutiny and legislative proposals in several states in which we operate. Many utilities have proposed and are proposing new and varied revisions to their net metering programs, with such proposals decided by the state public utilities commissions. These revisions include, but are not limited to, capping the numbers of customers that can elect net metering within a utility service territory, imposing new fixed charges for grid service or interconnection, reducing the retail rate value of the net metered electricity generation, and imposing consumer protection requirements on solar companies. Further, municipal utilities are generally not subject to the same state laws and public commission oversight as compared to investor owned utilities and may make drastic and abrupt changes. As we continue to expand into areas with municipal utilities, we may be subject to greater risk of regulatory uncertainty.

Government Incentives

Federal, state and local government and regulatory bodies provide for tariff structures and incentives to various parties including owners, end users, distributors, system integrators and manufacturers of solar energy systems to promote solar energy. These incentives come in various forms, including rebates, tax credits and other financial incentives such as system performance payments, renewable energy certificates associated with renewable energy generation, exclusion of solar energy systems from property tax assessments and net metering. We rely on these governmental and regulatory programs to finance solar energy system installations, which enables us to lower the price we charge customers for energy from our solar energy systems, and to lease or purchase these systems, helping to achieve customer acceptance of solar energy with those customers as an alternative to utility-provided power.

The Federal government offers a 30% ITC under Section 48(a) of the Internal Revenue Code for the installation of certain solar power facilities as long as construction of the solar energy system began by December 31, 2019. By statute, the ITC decreases to 26% of the basis of a solar energy system for systems where construction begins in 2020, 22% for systems where construction begins in 2021 and 10% for systems where construction begins after 2021 or, regardless of when construction begins, if the solar energy system is placed into service after 2023.

In order to take advantage of the higher ITC rates available based on the year in which construction on a solar energy system begins, we placed orders for solar energy components that we paid for prior to the end of 2019 and entered into contracts for products where significant physical work had begun prior to the end of 2019. While we have attempted to ensure that these orders and physical work plans will comply with guidance issued by the IRS, this guidance is relatively limited and could change without notice. As such, it is possible that our financing partners or the IRS could challenge whether construction has begun for purposes of the ITC rate step-down described above.

The economics of purchasing a solar energy system are also improved by eligibility for accelerated tax depreciation, also known as the modified accelerated cost recovery system, or MACRS, which allows for the depreciation of equipment according to an accelerated schedule. The acceleration of depreciation creates a valuable tax benefit that reduces the overall cost of the solar energy system and increases the return on investment.

Some of the states in which we operate offer a personal and/or corporate investment or production tax credit for solar energy that is additive to the ITC. Further, many of the states and local jurisdictions have established property tax incentives for renewable energy systems that include exemptions, exclusions, abatements and credits.

Some state governments, traditional utilities, municipal utilities and co-operative utilities offer a rebate or other cash incentive for the installation and operation of a solar energy system or energy efficiency measures. Capital costs or “up-front” rebates provide funds to solar customers or developers or system owners based on the cost, size or expected production of a customer’s solar energy system. Performance-based incentives provide cash payments to solar customers or a system owner based on the energy generated by the solar energy system during a pre-determined period.

Many states also have adopted procurement requirements for renewable energy production. Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories have adopted a renewable portfolio standard that requires regulated utilities to procure a specified percentage of total electricity delivered to customers in the state from eligible renewable energy sources, such as solar energy systems, by a specified date. To prove compliance with such mandates, utilities usually must surrender solar renewable energy certificates, or SRECs, to the applicable authority. Solar energy system owners such as our investment funds often are able to sell SRECs to utilities directly or in SREC markets.

Workforce

As of December 31, 2019, we had a total workforce of 2,998, which does not include direct sellers. None of our service providers are represented by a labor union, and we consider relations with our employees to be good.

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Item 1A. Risk Factors

You should carefully consider the following risk factors, together with all of the other information included in this report, including the section of this report captioned “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and our financial statements and related notes. If any of the following risks occurred, they could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or operating results. This report also contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Our actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements as a result of factors that are described below and elsewhere in this report.

Risk Related to Our Business

We need to enter into substantial additional financing arrangements to facilitate new customers’ access to our solar energy systems and provide working capital, and if financing is not available to us on acceptable terms when needed, our ability to continue to grow our business would be materially adversely impacted.

Our future success depends on our ability to raise capital from third-party investors and commercial sources, such as banks and other lenders, on competitive terms to help finance the deployment of our solar energy systems. We seek to minimize our cost of capital in order to maintain the price competitiveness of our solar energy systems. We rely on investment funds in order to provide solar energy systems with little to no upfront costs to our customers under our PPAs and Solar Leases. We also rely on access to capital, including through indebtedness in the form of debt facilities and asset-backed securities, to cover the costs of our solar energy systems that are sold outright until the systems are paid for by our customers, whether by cash or through third-party financing arrangements. Certain of our financing arrangements are with fund investors who require particular tax and other benefits. The availability of this tax-advantaged financing depends upon many factors, including:

 

our ability to compete with other renewable energy companies for the limited number of potential investment fund investors, each of which has limited funds and limited appetite for the tax benefits associated with these financings;

 

the state of financial and credit markets;

 

changes in the legal or tax risks associated with these financings; and

 

non-renewal of certain incentives or decreases in the associated benefits.

Moreover, potential investors seeking such tax-advantaged financing must remain satisfied that the structures we offer qualify for the tax benefits associated with solar energy systems available to these investors, which depends both on the investors’ assessment of tax law and the absence of any unfavorable interpretations of that law. Changes in existing law, including the step-down of the ITC, and interpretations by the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, and the courts could reduce the willingness of fund investors to invest in funds associated with these solar energy system investments or cause these investors to require a larger allocation of customer payments. We are not certain that this type of financing will continue to be available to us. If we are unable to establish new financing when needed, or upon desirable terms, to enable our customers’ access to our solar energy systems, we may be unable to finance installation of our customers’ systems, our cost of capital could increase or our liquidity could be constrained, any of which would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. As of February 29, 2020, we had raised 28 investment funds to which investors such as banks and other large financial investors have committed to invest approximately $2.2 billion. The undrawn committed capital for these funds as of February 29, 2020 was approximately $133 million, which we estimate will fund approximately 59 megawatts of future deployments.

The contract terms in certain of our investment fund documents impose conditions on our ability to draw on financing commitments from the fund investors, including if an event occurs that could reasonably be expected to have a material adverse effect on the fund or on us. The terms and conditions of our investment funds can vary and may require us to alter our products, services or product mix. If we do not satisfy such conditions due to events related to our business or a specific investment fund or developments in our industry or otherwise, and as a result we are unable to draw on existing commitments, our inability to draw on such commitments could have a material adverse effect on our business, liquidity, financial condition and prospects. In addition to our inability to draw on investors’ commitments, we have in the past incurred and may in the future incur financial penalties for non-performance, including delays in the installation process and interconnection to the power grid of solar energy systems and other factors. Based on the terms of the investment fund agreements, we will either reimburse a portion of the fund investors’ capital or pay the fund investors a non-performance fee.

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To meet the capital needs of our growing business, we will need to obtain additional financing from new investors and financial institutions and investors and financial institutions who are current investors or with whom we currently have financing arrangements. If any of the investors or financial institutions that currently provide financing decide not to invest in us in the future due to general market conditions, concerns about our business or prospects or any other reason, or decide to invest at levels that are inadequate to support our anticipated needs or materially change the terms under which they are willing to provide future financing, we will need to identify new investors and financial institutions to provide financing and negotiate new financing terms. In addition, our ability to obtain additional financing through the asset-backed securities market or other secured debt markets is subject to our having sufficient assets eligible for securitization or for use as collateral, as well as our ability to obtain appropriate credit ratings. If we are unable to raise additional capital in a timely manner, our ability to meet our capital needs and fund future growth may be limited.

In the past, we have sometimes been unable to timely establish investment funds in accordance with our plans, due in part to the relatively limited number of investors attracted to such types of funds, competition for such capital and the complexity associated with negotiating the agreements with respect to such funds. Delays in raising financing could cause us to delay expanding in existing markets or entering into new markets and hiring additional personnel. Any future delays in raising capital could similarly cause us to delay deployment of a substantial number of solar energy systems for which we have signed PPAs or Solar Leases with customers. Our future ability to obtain additional financing depends on banks’ and other financing sources’ continued confidence in our business model and the renewable energy industry as a whole. It could also be impacted by the liquidity needs of such financing sources themselves. We face intense competition from a variety of other companies, technologies and financing structures for such limited investment capital. If we are unable to continue to offer a competitive investment profile, we may lose access to these funds or they may only be available to us on terms that are less favorable than those received by our competitors. For example, if we experience higher customer default rates than we currently experience in our existing investment funds, it could be more difficult or costly to attract future financing. In our experience, there are a relatively small number of investors that generate sufficient profits and possess the requisite financial sophistication to benefit from and have significant demand for the tax benefits that our investment funds provide. Historically, in the distributed solar energy industry, investors have typically been large financial institutions and a few large, profitable corporations. Our ability to raise investment funds is limited by the relatively small number of such investors. Any inability to secure financing could lead us to cancel planned installations, impair our ability to accept new customers or increase our borrowing costs, any of which would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

Our business currently depends on the availability of rebates, tax credits and other financial incentives. The expiration, elimination or reduction of these rebates, credits or incentives or our ability to monetize them could adversely impact our business.

Federal, state and local government and regulatory bodies provide for tariff structures and incentives to various parties including owners, end users, distributors, system integrators and manufacturers of solar energy systems to promote solar energy in various forms, including rebates, tax credits and other financial incentives such as system performance payments, renewable energy certificates associated with renewable energy generation, exclusion of solar energy systems from property tax assessments and net metering. We rely on these programs to finance solar energy system installations, which enables us to lower the price we charge customers for energy from, and to lease or purchase, our solar energy systems, helping to achieve acceptance of solar energy with those customers as an alternative to utility-provided power. However, these programs may expire on a particular date, end when the allocated funding or capacity allocations are exhausted or be reduced or terminated. These reductions or terminations often occur without warning. In addition, the financial value of certain incentives decreases over time. For example, the value of SRECs in a market tends to decrease over time as the supply of SREC-producing solar energy systems installed in that market increases. If we overestimate the future value of these programs, it could adversely impact our financial results.

Substantially all of our solar energy systems installed to date have been eligible for ITCs as well as accelerated depreciation benefits. We have relied on, and will continue to rely on, financing structures that monetize a substantial portion of those benefits and provide financing for our solar energy systems. The federal government offers a 30% ITC under Section 48(a) of the Internal Revenue Code for the installation of certain solar power facilities as long as construction of the solar energy system began by December 31, 2019. By statute, the ITC decreases to 26% of the basis of a solar energy system for systems where construction begins in 2020, 22% for systems where construction begins in 2021 and 10% for systems where construction begins after 2021 or, regardless of when construction begins, where the solar energy system is placed into service after 2023. The amounts that fund investors are willing to invest could decrease or we may be required to provide a larger allocation of customer payments to the fund investors as a result of this scheduled decrease. To the extent we have a reduced ability to raise investment funds as a result of this reduction or an inability to continue to monetize such benefits in our financing arrangements, the rate of growth of installations of our residential solar energy systems and our ability to maintain such systems could be negatively impacted. In addition, future changes in existing law and interpretations by the IRS and the courts with respect to certain matters, including but not limited to, treatment of the ITC and our financing arrangements, the taxation of business entities, the deductibility of interest expense, and the meaning of “beginning construction” for purposes of the ITC step-down described above could affect the amount that fund investors are willing to invest, which could reduce our access to capital. The ITC has been a significant driver of the financing supporting the adoption of residential solar energy systems in the United States and its reduction beginning in 2020, unless modified by a change in law, may impact the attractiveness of solar energy to these investors and could potentially harm our business.

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In order to take advantage of the higher ITC rates available based on the year in which construction on a solar energy system begins, we placed orders for solar energy components that we paid for prior to the end of 2019 and entered into contracts for products where significant physical work had begun prior to the end of 2019. While we have attempted to ensure that these orders and physical work plans will comply with guidance issued by the IRS, this guidance is relatively limited and could change without notice. As such, it is possible that our financing partners or the IRS could challenge whether construction has begun for purposes of the ITC rate step-down described above. It is also possible that we will not be able to use all of the solar energy system components purchased pursuant to this plan.

Applicable authorities may adjust or decrease incentives from time to time or include provisions for minimum domestic content requirements or other requirements to qualify for these incentives. An inability to finance solar energy systems through tax-advantaged structures, to realize or monetize depreciation benefits, to monetize or otherwise receive the benefit of rebates, tax credits, SRECs or other financial incentives, or to otherwise structure investment funds in ways that are both attractive to investors and allow us to provide desirable pricing to customers could adversely impact our results of operations and ability to compete in our industry by increasing our cost of capital, causing us to increase the prices of our energy and solar energy systems and reducing the size of our addressable market. In addition, this would adversely impact our ability to attract investment partners and to form new investment funds and our ability to offer attractive financing to prospective customers.

A material reduction in the retail price of traditional utility-generated electricity or electricity from other sources or other reduction in the cost of such electricity would harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

We believe that many of our customers’ interest in solar energy systems is driven by a desire to pay less for their energy costs. However, distributed residential solar energy has yet to achieve broad market adoption for a number of reasons including state regulatory hurdles, utility-imposed interconnection issues for distributed electricity generation systems and unfavorable economics from the customer perspective.

A customer’s interest in a solar energy system may also be affected by the cost of electricity generated from other energy sources, including renewable energy sources. Decreases in the retail prices of electricity from the traditional utilities or from other renewable energy sources would harm our ability to offer competitive pricing and could harm our business. The cost of electricity from traditional utilities could decrease as a result of:

 

construction of new power generation plants, including plants utilizing natural gas, nuclear, coal, renewable energy or other generation technologies;

 

the construction of additional electric transmission and distribution lines;

 

relief of transmission constraints that enable local centers to generate energy less expensively;

 

reductions in the price of natural gas or other fuel sources;

 

utility rate adjustment and customer class cost reallocation;

 

energy conservation technologies and public initiatives to reduce electricity consumption;

 

widespread deployment of existing or development of new or lower-cost energy storage technologies that have the ability to reduce a customer’s average cost of electricity by shifting load to off-peak times;

 

changes in regulations by federal or state regulatory bodies that lower the cost of generating and transmitting electricity or otherwise reduce regulatory compliance costs for traditional utilities, or otherwise disadvantage residential solar energy providers relative to traditional utilities; and

 

development of new energy generation technologies that provide less expensive energy.

A reduction in utility electricity costs would make PPAs or Solar Leases less economically attractive to customers on a monthly basis and would increase the time to breakeven for our System Sales customers. If the cost of energy available from traditional utilities were to decrease due to any of these reasons, or other reasons, we would be at a competitive disadvantage, we may be unable to attract new customers and our growth would be limited. In addition, from time to time we have increased our pricing in certain markets, which may negatively impact our competitiveness.

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Electric utility industry policies and regulations may present technical, regulatory and economic barriers to the purchase and use of solar energy systems that may significantly reduce demand for electricity from our solar energy systems.

Federal, state and local government regulations and policies concerning the electric utility industry, utility rate structures, interconnection procedures, and internal policies of electric utilities, heavily influence the market for electricity generation products and services. These regulations and policies often relate to electricity pricing and the interconnection of distributed electricity generation systems to the power grid. Policies and regulations that promote renewable energy and customer-sited energy generation have been challenged by traditional utilities and questioned by those in government and others arguing for less governmental spending and involvement in the energy market. In addition, it is unclear what, if any, further actions the current and future administrations in the United States, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and individual states may take regarding existing regulations and policies that affect the cost competitiveness of nuclear, coal and gas electric generation, and fossil fuel mining and exploration. Proposed changes to such policies have been considered and will continue to be considered by federal and state administrators, and any resulting changes in such policies and regulations could increase the cost or decrease the benefits of solar energy systems or reduce costs and other limitations on competing forms of generation, and adversely affect the attractiveness of our products and our results of operations, cost of capital and growth prospects.

In the United States, governments and the state public service commissions that determine utility rates continually modify these regulations and policies. These regulations and policies could result in a significant reduction in the potential demand for electricity from our solar energy systems and could deter customers from entering into contracts with us. In addition, in certain of our regions, electricity generated by solar energy systems competes most effectively with the most expensive retail rates for electricity from the power grid, rather than the less expensive average price of electricity. Modifications to the utilities’ peak hour pricing policies or rate design, such as movement to a flat rate, would make our current products less competitive with the price of electricity from the power grid. Other regulatory revisions that could impact the competitiveness of our product include moving from a retail rate to a time-of-use compensation mechanism, imposition of fixed demand or grid-service charges, or limitations on whether third-party owned systems are eligible for such programs. It is possible that changes such as these could have the effect of lowering the incentive for residential customers of investor-owned utilities to reduce their purchases of electricity from their utility by supplying more of their own electricity from solar, and thereby reducing demand for our product. A shift in the timing of peak rates for utility-generated electricity to a time of day when solar energy generation is less efficient or nonexistent could make our solar energy system offerings less competitive and reduce demand for our offerings. In addition, since we are required to obtain interconnection permission for each solar energy system from the local utility, changes in a local utility’s regulations, policies or interconnection processes have in the past delayed and in the future could delay or prevent the completion of our solar energy systems. This in turn has delayed and, in the future, could delay or prevent us from generating revenues from such solar energy systems or cause us to redeploy solar energy systems, adversely impacting our results of operations.

In addition, any changes to government or internal utility regulations and policies that favor electric utilities or alternative forms of energy over residential rooftop solar energy could reduce our competitiveness and cause a significant reduction in demand for our offerings or increase our costs or the prices we charge our customers. Certain jurisdictions have proposed allowing traditional utilities to assess various fees on customers purchasing energy from solar energy systems or have imposed or proposed new charges or rate structures that would disproportionately impact solar energy system customers who utilize net metering, either of which would increase the cost of energy to those customers and could reduce demand for our solar energy systems. For example, in California, investor owned utilities are allowed to impose a minimum $10 fixed charge on the monthly bill for residential customers that elect net metering and also impose new fees for interconnection and other non-bypassable charges. Such non-bypassable charges are being authorized by other public utilities commissions outside of California. Additionally, certain utilities in Arizona have approved increased rates and charges for net metering customers, and others have proposed doing away with the state’s renewable electricity standard carve-outs for distributed generation. These policy changes may negatively impact our customers and affect demand for our solar energy systems, and similar changes to net metering policies may occur in other states. It is also possible that these or other changes could be imposed on our current customers, as well as future customers. Due to the current and expected continued concentration of our solar energy systems in California, any such changes in this market would be particularly harmful to our reputation, customer relations, business, results of operations and future growth in these areas. We may be similarly adversely affected if our business becomes concentrated in other jurisdictions.

Relatedly, it is possible that the bankruptcy proceedings initiated by Pacific Gas and Electric Company on January 29, 2019 could have an adverse impact on our customers and operations in California. Any such negative impacts (e.g., resulting from new non-bypassable charges, rate changes, restructuring, etc.) could be harmful to our customer relations, business, results of operations and future growth, especially given the concentration of our solar energy systems in California.

Finally, public service commissions may impose requirements on our business associated with our interactions with consumers. The California Public Utilities Commission and the Public Service Commission of the State of New York have each adopted orders requiring changes to certain of our business practices and continue to take actions suggesting the trend will continue. Other public service commissions could follow California and New York’s lead and impose requirements, including those associated with consumer protection that could affect how we do business and acquire customers.

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We rely on net metering and related policies to offer competitive pricing to our customers in all of our current markets, and changes to net metering policies may significantly reduce demand for electricity from our solar energy systems.

Our business benefits significantly from favorable net metering policies. Net metering allows a homeowner to pay his or her local electric utility only for his or her power usage net of production from the solar energy system, transforming the conventional relationship between customers and traditional utilities. Homeowners receive credit for the energy that the solar energy system generates in excess of that needed by the home to offset energy usage at times when the solar installation is not generating energy. In states that provide for net metering, the customer typically pays for the net energy used or receives a credit against future bills at the retail rate if more energy is produced by the solar installation than consumed. In some states and utility territories, customers are also reimbursed by the electric utility for net excess generation on a periodic basis.

In recent years, net metering programs have been subject to regulatory scrutiny and legislative proposals in several states in which we operate. Many utilities have proposed and are proposing new and varied revisions to their net metering programs, with such proposals decided by the state public utilities commissions. These revisions include, but are not limited to, capping the numbers of customers that can elect net metering within a utility service territory, imposing new fixed charges for grid service or interconnection, reducing the retail rate value of the net metered electricity generation, and imposing consumer protection requirements on solar companies. For example, in 2016, the California Public Utilities Commission enacted changes requiring customers within the service territory of San Diego Gas and Electric, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and Southern California Edison Company, to take service on a net metering successor tariff. Under this successor tariff, utilities are allowed to impose reasonable interconnection fees on customers and some additional charges and customers must take service on time-of-use rates. The California Public Utilities Commission in 2019 and in 2018 again referenced its net metering authority when imposing new consumer protection measures on the residential solar industry. Further, municipal utilities are generally not subject to the same state laws and public commission oversight as compared to investor owned utilities and may make drastic and abrupt changes. As we continue to expand into areas with municipal utilities, we may be subject to greater risk of regulatory uncertainty.

If and when net metering caps in certain jurisdictions are reached, the value of the credit that customers receive for net metering will be significantly reduced, utility rate structures will be altered, or fees will be imposed on net metering customers, and future customers may be unable to recognize the same level of cost savings associated with net metering that current customers enjoy. The absence of favorable net metering policies or of net metering entirely, or the imposition of new charges that only or disproportionately impact customers that use net metering would significantly limit customer demand for our solar energy systems and the electricity they generate, could negatively affect existing customers and lead to missed payments or defaults, and could adversely impact our business, results of operations and future growth.

Our business has benefited from the declining cost of equipment, and our financial results may be harmed if the cost of equipment increases in the future.

During previous years, the declining cost of solar panels and the raw materials necessary to manufacture them has been a key driver in the price we charge for electricity and customer adoption of solar energy systems. Despite recent increases in solar panel prices due to the tariffs imposed since February 2018 and a general decrease in supply in the solar panel market, industry experts indicate that solar panel and raw material prices are expected to decline in the future. It is possible, however, that prices will not decline at the same rate as they have over the past several years or that prices may increase. In addition, growth in the solar industry in the United States and abroad and the resulting increase in demand for solar panels and the raw materials necessary to manufacture them may put upward pressure on prices. These resulting prices could slow our growth and cause our financial results to suffer.

In addition, in the past we have purchased a substantial majority of the solar panels used in our solar energy systems from manufacturers headquartered in China; however, most of the manufacturing now takes place in other Asian countries, such as Malaysia and Vietnam. Changes in governmental support or regulation in China or the other countries where these products are manufactured, unforeseen public health crises, political crises, or other catastrophic events, whether occurring in China, the United States or other countries, could disrupt our supply chain, affect our ability to purchase panels on competitive terms, and restrict our access to specialized technologies.

The U.S. government has imposed duties and tariffs on solar cells and could impose additional tariffs on solar cells manufactured outside the United States or implement additional restraints on trade. In January 2018, the President of the United States announced the imposition of safeguard measures for a period of four years that include (1) a 30% tariff on imports of solar cells not partially or fully assembled into other products and (2) a 30% tariff on imported solar panels. The tariff on imported solar panels will decline 5% each year in the second, third and fourth years. The safeguard measures went into effect in February 2018 and apply to imports from all foreign countries, including Mexico and Canada, except certain developing countries that are members of the World Trade Organization. However, a mid-term review of the tariffs was sent to the President of the United States in February 2020, and the 5% reduction in 2021 and 2022 could be modified. The future of the tariffs is unknown at this time.

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In September 2018, the President of the United States announced the imposition of tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods. Inverters imported from China are listed as subject to the new duties. Tariffs of 10% on inverters went into effect on September 24, 2018, and the tariffs were increased to 25% in May 2019. We are currently seeing various responses from inverter suppliers to the 25% tariff, as they pass on various portions of the tariff to the purchaser through price increases.

These combined tariffs make affected solar cells less competitively priced in the United States, and the impacted manufacturers may choose to limit the amount of solar equipment they sell into the United States. The U.S. government may also take broader actions to protect U.S. based manufacturers against imports of solar cells manufactured outside the United States, such as in Southeast Asia, Japan, Germany and South Korea.

The safeguard measures have increased, and other potential tariffs could further increase, our costs of solar panels and other system components, potentially causing a significant impact on our system costs, business and prospects. If we are required to pay higher prices, accept less favorable terms or purchase solar panels or other system components from alternative, higher-priced sources, or if supply is otherwise constrained, our costs would increase significantly, and it may be less economical for us to serve certain markets, which would adversely affect our operating results and growth prospects.

Lack of success in System Sales could negatively impact our operating results and cash flows.

System Sales allow us to expand our product offerings and to enter into additional markets, such as those that prohibit third-party ownership of distributed solar energy systems or that lack a favorable net metering policy. System Sales represented approximately 17% of total megawatts installed in the year ended December 31, 2019. If customer preferences or the residential solar energy market shift more toward solar energy system sales, and we are not successful in our efforts, we may lose market share, which could have an adverse effect on our business, operating results and growth prospects. To the extent we are unsuccessful in our efforts to sell solar energy systems or to work with third parties to finance those systems for our customers, our operating cash flows would be negatively affected, and our business and growth prospects would be adversely affected.

Our business is concentrated in California, putting us at risk of region-specific disruptions.

As of December 31, 2019, approximately 36% of our cumulative megawatts installed were located in California, and the concentration of systems located in California has increased in recent years. In addition, we expect future installations to occur in California, which could further concentrate our customer base and operational infrastructure. Accordingly, our business and results of operations are particularly susceptible to adverse economic, regulatory, political, weather and other conditions in California and in other markets that may become similarly concentrated. As mentioned above, any adverse impacts to retail electric customers resulting from Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s bankruptcy proceedings could affect a significant portion of our customer base in light of the concentration of our customers in California.

Technical and regulatory limitations may significantly reduce our ability to sell electricity from our solar energy systems and retain employees in certain markets.

Technical and regulatory limits may curb our growth in certain key markets, which may also reduce our ability to retain employees in those markets. For example, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, in promulgating the first form small generator interconnection procedures, recommended limiting customer-sited intermittent generation resources, such as our solar energy systems, to a certain percentage of peak load on a given electrical feeder circuit. Similar limits have been adopted by many states as a de facto standard and could constrain our ability to market to customers in certain geographic areas where the concentration of solar installations exceeds this limit. Furthermore, in certain areas, we benefit from policies that allow for expedited or simplified procedures related to connecting solar energy systems to the power grid. If such procedures are changed or cease to be available, our ability to sell the electricity generated by solar energy systems we install may be adversely impacted. As adoption of solar distributed generation rises along with the commercial operation of utility scale solar generation in key markets such as California, the amount of solar energy being fed into the power grid will surpass the amount planned for relative to the amount of aggregate demand. Some traditional utilities claim that in the near future, solar generation resources may reach a level capable of producing an over-generation situation, which may require some solar generation resources to be curtailed to maintain operation of the power grid. The adverse effects of such curtailment without compensation could adversely impact our business, results of operations and future growth.

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We have incurred operating losses before income taxes and may be unable to achieve or sustain profitability in the future.

We have incurred operating losses before income taxes since our inception. We incurred losses before income taxes of $272.3 million and $173.3 million for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018. We expect to continue to incur losses before income taxes from operations as we finance our operations, expand our installation, engineering, administrative, sales and marketing staffs, and implement internal systems and infrastructure to support financing the installation of new solar energy systems. Our ability to achieve profitability depends on a number of factors, including:

 

growing our customer base;

 

finding investors willing to invest in our investment funds;

 

maintaining and further reducing our cost of capital;

 

reducing the time between system installation and interconnection to the power grid, which allows us to begin generating revenue;

 

reducing the cost of components for our solar energy systems;

 

maximizing the benefits of rebates, tax credits, SRECs and other available incentives;

 

reducing our operating costs by optimizing our sales, design and installation processes and supply chain logistics;

 

managing our customer acquisition costs; and

 

managing our exposure to regulatory and legal actions.

Even if we do achieve profitability, we may be unable to sustain or increase our profitability in the future.

The majority of our business is conducted using the direct-to-home sales channel.

Historically, our primary sales channel has been a direct-to-home sales model. We also sell to customers through our inside sales team and through the homebuilder and retail distribution channels. However, we continue to acquire most of our customers through our direct-to-home sales channel. In addition, we have entered into various sales dealer agreements. We compete against companies with greater experience selling solar energy systems to customers through a number of distribution channels in addition to direct-to-home sales, including homebuilders, home improvement stores, large construction companies, electrical and roofing companies, the internet, and through relationships with other third parties. Our less diversified distribution channels may place us at a disadvantage with consumers who prefer to purchase products through these other distribution channels. If customers demonstrate a preference for other distribution channels, we may need to reduce our direct-selling efforts. We are also vulnerable to changes in laws related to direct sales and marketing that could impose additional limitations on unsolicited residential sales calls and may impose additional restrictions such as adjustments to our marketing materials and direct-selling processes, and new training for personnel. If additional laws affecting direct sales and marketing are passed in the markets in which we operate, it would take time to train our sales professionals to comply with such laws, and we may be exposed to fines or other penalties for violations of such laws. If we fail to compete effectively through our direct-selling efforts or are not successful in developing other sales channels, our financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects could be adversely affected.

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Expansion into new sales channels could be costly and time-consuming. As we enter new channels, we could be at a disadvantage relative to other companies who have more history in these spaces.

Historically, our primary sales channel has been the direct-to-home sales model. As we continue to expand into other channels, such as the homebuilder, retail and e-commerce channels, we have incurred and may continue to incur significant costs including but not limited to, fees related to meeting volume requirements, investments into inside sales to support these efforts and other information technology investments. In addition, we may not initially or ever be successful in utilizing these new channels. Furthermore, we may not be able to compete successfully with companies with a historical presence in such channels, and we may not realize the anticipated benefits of entering such channels, including efficiently increasing our customer base and ultimately reducing costs. Entering new channels poses numerous risks, including the following:

 

incurrence of significant start-up costs to adapt our current processes or develop new sales processes for use in these channels;

 

diversion of our management and employees from our core direct-to-home sales model;

 

difficulty adapting our current marketing strategies or developing new marketing strategies to these new channels;

 

inability to obtain key partners and the necessary volumes to remain viable in the retail space, both for us and for our retail partners;

 

inability to compete successfully with companies with a historical presence in such channels;

 

inability to achieve the financial and strategic goals for these channels; and

 

potential conflicts between sales channels.

If we are unable to successfully compete in new channels, our operating results and growth prospects could be adversely affected.

We are highly dependent on our ability to attract, train and retain effective sales professionals.

The success of our direct-to-home sales efforts depends upon the recruitment, retention and motivation of a large number of sales professionals to compensate for a high turnover rate, which is a common characteristic of a direct-selling business. In order to grow our business, we need to recruit, train and retain sales professionals on a continuing basis. Sales professionals are attracted to direct-selling by competitive earnings opportunities, and direct-sellers typically compete for sales professionals by providing a more competitive earnings opportunity than that offered by the competition. We believe competitors devote substantial effort to determining the effectiveness of such incentives so that they can invest in incentives that are the most cost effective or produce the best return on investment. We compensate our sales professionals primarily on a commission basis, based on system size, contract rate and the expected number of hours the rooftop will be exposed to full sunlight. Certain of our sales professionals in leadership roles also receive equity compensation. Some sales professionals may prefer a compensation structure that also includes a salary component or other benefits. There is significant competition for sales talent in our industry, and from time to time we may need to adjust our compensation model to respond to this competition. These adjustments have caused and are expected to continue to cause our customer acquisition costs to increase and could otherwise adversely impact our operating results and financial performance.

In addition to our sales compensation model, our ability to recruit, train and retain effective sales professionals could be harmed by additional factors, including:

 

any adverse publicity regarding us, our solar energy systems, our distribution channel or our industry;

 

lack of interest in, or the technical failure of, our solar energy systems;

 

lack of a compelling product or income opportunity that generates interest for potential new sales professionals, or perception that other product or income opportunities are more attractive;

 

any negative public perception of our sales professionals and direct-selling businesses in general;

 

any regulatory actions or charges against us or others in our industry;

 

general economic and business conditions; and

 

potential saturation or maturity levels in a given market, which could negatively impact our ability to attract and retain sales professionals in such market.

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We are subject to significant competition for the recruitment of sales professionals from other direct-selling companies and from other companies that sell solar energy systems in particular. Regional and district managers of our sales professionals are instrumental in recruiting, retaining and motivating our sales professionals. When managers have elected to leave us and join other companies, the sales professionals they supervise have often left with them. We may experience increased attrition in our sales professionals in the future, which may impact our results of operations and growth. The impact of such attrition could be particularly acute in those jurisdictions, such as California, where contractual non-competition agreements for service providers are not enforceable or are subject to significant limitations. It is therefore continually necessary to innovate and enhance our direct-selling and service model as well as to recruit and retain new sales professionals. If we are unable to do so, our business could be adversely affected.

We are not currently regulated as an electric utility under applicable law in the jurisdictions in which we operate (other than New York), but we may be subject to regulation as an electric utility in the future.

Except as described below with respect to New York, we are not regulated as a public utility in any of the markets in which we currently operate. As a result, we are not subject to the various federal, state and local standards, restrictions and regulatory requirements applicable to traditional utilities that operate transmission and distribution systems and that have an obligation to serve electric customers within a specified jurisdiction.

In October 2017, the NYPSC entered an order determining that residential rooftop solar energy providers are “electric corporations” (the term for electric utilities under New York state law) and requiring changes that will affect certain aspects of our business. The NYPSC expanded its original order of October 2017 in March 2019. The order, which is part of a broader proceeding before the NYPSC associated with regulating and overseeing distributed energy resource suppliers, is premised on the NYPSC’s determination that it has the jurisdiction to oversee certain aspects of our business, and businesses like ours, in the same way that it oversees public utilities. Though the NYPSC is, to our knowledge, the first state public commission to take the position that residential rooftop solar energy providers are subject to the same regulatory oversight as electric utilities, we understand from SEIA that other public service commissions are following what is happening in New York and may take similar action depending on the outcome, and the consumer protection order entered by the California Public Utilities Commission in October 2018 is premised, in part, on the notion that the California Public Utilities Commission has authority to regulate certain aspects of rooftop solar energy providers. If we were subject to the jurisdiction of public service commissions in the same or a similar way as public utilities, those commissions could take action that could materially affect our business operations.

Any additional federal, state, or local regulations that cause us to be treated as an electric utility, or to otherwise be subject to a similar regulatory regime of commission-approved operating tariffs, rate limitations, and related mandatory provisions, could place significant restrictions on our ability to operate our business and execute our business plan by prohibiting, restricting or otherwise regulating our sale of electricity. If we were subject to the same state or federal regulatory authorities as electric utilities in the United States or if new regulatory bodies were established to oversee our business in the United States, then our operating costs would materially increase.

Our business depends in part on the regulatory treatment of third-party owned solar energy systems.

We face regulatory hurdles in some states and jurisdictions, including states and jurisdictions that we intend to enter, where the laws and regulatory policies have not historically embraced competition to the service provided by the incumbent, vertically integrated electric utility. Some of the principal challenges pertain to whether non-customer owned systems qualify for the same levels of rebates or other non-tax incentives available for customer-owned solar energy systems, whether third-party owned systems are eligible at all for these incentives and whether third-party owned systems are eligible for net metering and the associated cost savings. Furthermore, in some states and utility territories third parties are limited in the way that they may deliver solar to their customers. In certain jurisdictions, laws have been interpreted to either prohibit the sale of electricity pursuant to our standard PPA or regulate entities making such sales, and in some cases, such laws have led residential solar energy system providers to use leases in lieu of PPAs. In other states, neither leases nor PPAs are permissible or commercially feasible. Changes in law and reductions in, eliminations of or additional application requirements for, these benefits could reduce demand for our systems, adversely impact our access to capital and could cause us to increase the price we charge our customers for energy.

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If the IRS or the U.S. Treasury Department makes a determination that the fair market value of our solar energy systems is materially lower than what we have reported in our fund tax returns, we may have to pay significant amounts to our investment funds, our fund investors and/or the U.S. government. Such determinations could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and prospects.

We report in our fund tax returns that we and our fund investors claim the ITC based on the fair market value of our solar energy systems. The IRS continues to audit fair market value determinations industry-wide and is currently conducting an audit of one of our investment funds. We are not aware of any other ongoing audits or results of audits related to our appraisals or fair market value determinations of any of our investment funds. If as part of the current examination of one of our investment funds or an examination of any other fund, the IRS were to review the fair market value that we used to establish our basis for claiming ITCs and determine that the ITCs previously claimed should be reduced, we would owe certain of our investment funds or our fund investors an amount equal to 30% of the investor’s share (typically, 99%) of the difference between the fair market value used to establish our basis for claiming ITCs and the adjusted ITC basis determined by the IRS, plus any costs and expenses associated with a challenge to that fair market value, plus a gross up to pay for additional taxes. We could also be subject to tax liabilities, including interest and penalties, based on our share of claimed ITCs. To date, we have not been required to make such payments under any of our investment funds.

Rising interest rates could adversely impact our business.

Rising interest rates could have an adverse impact on our business by increasing our cost of capital. The majority of our cash flows to date have been from customer contracts that have been partially monetized under various investment fund structures. One of the components of this monetization is the present value of the payment streams from the customers who enter into these contracts. If the rate of return required by the fund investor rises as a result of a rise in interest rates, the present value of the customer payment stream and the total value that we are able to derive from monetizing the payment stream will each be reduced. Interest rates are at relatively low levels. If interest rates rise in the future, our costs of capital could increase.

The phase-out of LIBOR may adversely affect a portion of our outstanding debt.

The London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR, is scheduled to be phased out by the end of 2021. It is anticipated that new alternative floating borrowing rates will be adopted. Changes in the method of determining LIBOR, or the replacement of LIBOR with an alternative floating borrowing rate, may adversely affect our borrowing costs. Certain of our debt instruments have interest rates that are LIBOR based and will not have matured prior to the phase-out of LIBOR. We cannot predict the effect of the potential changes to LIBOR or the establishment and use of alternative floating borrowing rates on the portion of our outstanding debt that is LIBOR based. Challenges in changing to a different borrowing rate may result in less favorable pricing on certain of our debt instruments and could have an adverse effect on our financial results and cash flows.

Our investment funds contain arrangements that provide for priority distributions to fund investors until they receive their targeted rates of return. In addition, under the terms of certain of our investment funds, we may be required to make payments to the fund investors if certain tax benefits that are allocated to such fund investors are not realized as expected. Our financial condition may be adversely impacted if a fund is required to make these priority distributions for a longer period than anticipated to achieve the fund investors’ targeted rates of return or if we are required to make any tax-related payments.

Our investment funds contain terms that contractually require the investment funds to make priority distributions to the fund investor, to the extent cash is available, until it achieves its targeted rate of return. The amounts of potential future distributions under these arrangements depends on the amounts and timing of receipt of cash flows into the investment fund, almost all of which is generated from customer payments related to solar energy systems that have been previously purchased (or leased, as applicable) by such fund. If such cash flows are lower than expected, the priority distributions to the investor may continue for longer than initially anticipated.

Additionally, certain of our investment funds require that, under certain circumstances, we forego distributions from the fund that we are otherwise contractually entitled to, or make capital contributions to the fund that can be redirected to the fund investor such that it achieves the targeted return. These forgone distributions or capital contributions will generally occur if the fund investor has not achieved its targeted return prior to the target flip date of the investment fund. None of our investment funds have reached their target flip date, and we anticipate that the first target flip date in which a fund investor is required to have achieved its targeted return is July 1, 2020.

Our fund investors also expect returns partially in the form of tax benefits and, to enable such returns, our investment funds contain terms that contractually require us to make payments to the funds that are then used to make payments to the fund investor in certain circumstances so that the fund investor receives value equivalent to the tax benefits it expected to receive when it entered into the transaction. The amounts of potential tax payments under these arrangements depend on the tax benefits that accrue to such investors from the funds’ activities and, in some cases, may be impacted by changes in tax law.

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Due to uncertainties associated with estimating the timing and amounts of these cash distributions and allocations of tax benefits to such investors, we cannot determine the potential maximum future impact on our cash flows or payments that could occur under these arrangements. We may agree to similar terms in the future if market conditions require it. Any significant payments that we may be required to make or distributions to us that are reduced or diverted as a result of these arrangements could adversely affect our financial condition.

We may incur substantially more debt or take other actions that could restrict our ability to pursue our business strategies.

As of December 31, 2019, we and our subsidiaries had outstanding $1.5 billion in principal amount of indebtedness, including through debt facilities and asset-backed securities issued by our subsidiaries. As of December 31, 2019, we had up to $223.5 million of unused borrowing capacity remaining. These debt facilities restrict our ability to dispose of assets, incur indebtedness, incur liens, pay dividends or make other distributions to holders of our capital stock, repurchase our capital stock, make specified investments or engage in transactions with our affiliates. In addition, we do not have full access to the cash and cash equivalents held in our investment funds until it is distributed per the terms of the arrangements. We and our subsidiaries may incur substantial additional debt in the future, and any debt instrument we enter into in the future may contain similar, or more onerous, restrictions. These restrictions could inhibit our ability to pursue our business strategies. Additionally, our ability to make scheduled payments depends on our operating performance, which is subject to economic, financial, competitive and other factors that may be beyond our control. Furthermore, if we default on one of our debt instruments, and such event of default is not cured or waived, the lenders could terminate commitments to lend and cause all amounts outstanding with respect to the debt to be due and payable immediately, which in turn could result in cross acceleration under other debt instruments. Our assets and cash flow may not be sufficient to fully repay borrowings under all of our outstanding debt instruments if some or all of these instruments are accelerated upon a default.

Furthermore, there is no assurance that we will be able to raise additional capital through the asset-backed securities market or other secured or unsecured debt markets or enter into new debt instruments on acceptable terms. If we are unable to satisfy financial covenants and other terms under existing or new instruments or obtain waivers or forbearance from our lenders or if we are unable to obtain refinancing or new financings for our working capital, equipment and other needs on acceptable terms if and when needed, our business would be adversely affected.

Residential solar energy is an evolving market, which makes it difficult to evaluate our prospects.

The residential solar energy industry is constantly evolving, which makes it difficult to evaluate our prospects. We cannot be certain if historical growth rates reflect future opportunities or whether growth anticipated by us or industry analysts will be realized. Any future growth of the residential solar energy market and the success of our solar energy systems depend on many factors beyond our control, including recognition and acceptance of the residential solar energy market by consumers, the pricing of alternative sources of energy, a favorable regulatory environment, the continuation of expected tax benefits and other incentives and our ability to provide our solar energy systems cost-effectively. If the markets for residential solar energy do not develop at the rate we expect, our business may be adversely affected.

Due to the length of our customer contracts, the system deployed on a customer’s roof may be outdated prior to the expiration of the term of the customer contract reducing the likelihood of renewal of our contracts at the end of the term, and possibly increasing the occurrence of defaults. This could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flow. As a result, we may be unable to accurately forecast our future performance and to invest accordingly.

We face competition from traditional regulated electric utilities, from less-regulated third party energy service providers, other solar companies and from new renewable energy companies.

The solar energy and renewable energy industries are both highly competitive and continually evolving as participants strive to distinguish themselves within their markets and compete with large traditional utilities. We believe that our primary competitors are the traditional utilities that supply electricity to our potential customers. Traditional utilities generally have substantially greater financial, technical, operational and other resources than we do. As a result, these competitors may be able to devote more resources to the research, development, promotion and sale of their products or respond more quickly to evolving industry standards and changes in market conditions than we can, including the ability to initiate proceedings before state public utility commissions to reduce the value of net metering. Traditional utilities could also offer other value-added products or services that could help them to compete with us even if the cost of electricity they offer is higher than ours. In addition, a majority of utilities’ sources of electricity is non-solar, which may allow utilities to sell electricity more cheaply than electricity generated by our solar energy systems.

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We also compete with companies that are not regulated like traditional utilities but that have access to the traditional utility electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure pursuant to state and local pro-competitive and consumer choice policies. These energy service companies are able to offer customers electricity supply-only solutions that are competitive with our solar energy system options on both price and usage of renewable energy technology while avoiding the long-term agreements and physical installations that our current fund-financed business model requires. This may limit our ability to attract new customers, particularly those who wish to avoid long-term contracts or have an aesthetic or other objection to putting solar panels on their roofs.

Additionally, we compete with solar companies with business models that are similar to ours. Some of these competitors have a higher degree of brand name recognition, differing business and pricing strategies, and greater capital resources than we have, as well as extensive knowledge of our target markets. In addition, our System Sales face increasing competition from other national and local solar energy companies who sell solar energy systems and may offer a broader suite of companion products. We believe the solar industry is becoming increasingly commoditized, and if we are unable to offer differentiated products, establish or maintain a consumer brand that resonates with homeowners or compete with the pricing offered by our competitors, our sales and market share position may be adversely affected.

In addition, we compete with solar companies in the downstream value chain of solar energy. For example, we face competition from purely finance driven organizations that acquire customers and then subcontract out the installation of solar energy systems, from installation businesses that seek financing from external parties, from large construction companies and utilities, and from electrical and roofing companies. Some of these competitors specialize in the residential solar energy market, and some may provide energy at lower costs than we do. Additionally, some of our competitors may offer their products through sales channels that we do not access or that they have more fully developed. Many of our competitors also have significant brand name recognition and have extensive knowledge of our target markets. For us to remain competitive, we must distinguish ourselves from our competitors by offering an integrated approach that successfully competes with each level of products and services offered by our competitors at various points in the value chain. If our competitors develop an integrated approach similar to ours including sales, financing, engineering, manufacturing, installation, maintenance and monitoring services, this will reduce our marketplace differentiation.

We also compete with solar companies that offer community solar products and utility companies that provide renewable power purchase programs. Some customers might choose to subscribe to a community solar project or renewable subscriber programs instead of installing a solar energy system on their home, which could affect our sales. Additionally, some utility companies (and some utility-like entities, such as community choice aggregators in California) have generation portfolios that are increasingly renewable in nature. In California, for example, due to recent legislation, utility companies and community choice aggregators in that state are required to have generation portfolios comprised of 60% renewable energy by 2030, and state regulators are planning for utility companies and community choice aggregators to sell 100% greenhouse gas free electricity to retail customers by 2045. Similar long-term utility requirements for 100% renewable or emission-free electricity are being put in place in Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, Washington, Maine, New York and other states. As utility companies offer increasingly renewable portfolios to retail customers, those customers might be less inclined to install a solar energy system at their home, which could adversely affect our growth.

As the solar industry grows and evolves, we will also face new competitors who are not currently in the market. Our industry is characterized by low technological barriers to entry, and well-capitalized companies could choose to enter the market and compete with us. Our failure to adapt to changing market conditions and to compete successfully with existing or new competitors will limit our growth and will have a material adverse effect on our business and prospects.

Developments in alternative technologies or improvements in distributed solar energy generation may materially adversely affect demand for our offerings.

Significant developments in alternative technologies, such as advances in other forms of distributed solar power generation, storage solutions such as batteries, the widespread use or adoption of fuel cells for residential or commercial properties or improvements in other forms of centralized power production may materially and adversely affect our business and prospects in ways we do not currently anticipate. Any failure by us to adopt new or enhanced technologies or processes, or to react to changes in existing technologies, could materially delay deployment of our solar energy systems, which could result in product obsolescence, the loss of competitiveness of our systems, decreased revenue and a loss of market share to competitors.

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A failure to hire and retain a sufficient number of employees in key functions would constrain our ability to timely complete our customers’ projects.

To support our business, we need to hire, train, deploy, manage and retain a substantial number of skilled installers and electricians in the markets where there is heightened or increasing demand for solar energy products. Competition for qualified personnel in our industry has increased substantially, and we expect it to continue to do so, particularly for skilled electricians and other personnel involved in the installation of solar energy systems. We also compete with the homebuilding and construction industries for skilled labor. As these industries seek to hire additional workers, our cost of labor may increase. Companies with whom we compete to hire installers may offer compensation or incentive plans that certain installers may view as more favorable. We periodically assess the compensation plans and policies for our service providers, including our installers and electricians and, if deemed necessary, may decide to revise those plans and policies. Our installers and electricians may not react well to any such revisions, which in turn could adversely affect retention, motivation and productivity. Additionally, we continually monitor our workforce requirements in the markets in which we operate. Any workforce reductions in markets where sales volume does not support the number of installation and other personnel could in turn adversely affect retention, motivation and productivity. We may also subcontract certain aspects of the installation process to independent contractors. Training these independent contractors and monitoring them for compliance with our policies may require significant management oversight and may present additional risks and challenges compared to those related to managing our employees.

Furthermore, trained installers are typically able to more efficiently install solar energy systems. Shortages of skilled labor could significantly delay installations or otherwise increase our costs. While we do not currently have any unionized employees, we have expanded, and may continue to expand, into areas where labor unions are more prevalent. The unionization of our labor force could also increase our labor costs. In addition, a significant portion of our business has been concentrated in states such as California, where market conditions are particularly favorable to distributed solar energy generation. We have experienced and may in the future experience greater than expected turnover in our installers in those jurisdictions which would adversely impact the geographic mix of new solar energy system installations.

Because we are a licensed electrical contractor in every jurisdiction in which we operate, we are required to employ licensed electricians. As we expand into new markets, we are required to hire and/or contract with seasoned licensed electricians in order for us to qualify for the requisite state and local licenses. Because of the high demand for these seasoned licensed electricians, these individuals currently or in the future may demand greater compensation. In addition, our inability to attract and retain these qualifying electricians may adversely impact our ability to continue operations in current markets or expand into new areas.

If we cannot meet our hiring, retention and efficiency goals, we may be unable to complete our customers’ projects on time, in an acceptable manner or at all. Any significant failures in this regard would materially impair our growth, reputation, business and financial results. If we are required to pay higher compensation than we anticipate, these greater expenses may also adversely impact our financial results and the growth of our business.

We typically act as the licensed general contractor for our customers and are subject to risks associated with construction, cost overruns, delays, regulatory compliance and other contingencies, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

We are a licensed contractor in every market we service, and we are typically responsible for every customer installation. We are the general contractor, electrician, construction manager and installer for nearly all our solar energy systems. We may be liable to customers for any damage we cause to their home, belongings or property during the installation of our systems, including any re-roofing services provided under our contracts. In addition, because the solar energy systems we deploy are high-voltage energy systems, we may incur liability for the failure to comply with electrical standards and manufacturer recommendations. Furthermore, prior to obtaining permission to operate our solar energy systems, the systems must pass various inspections. Any delay in passing, or inability to pass, such inspections, would adversely affect our results of operations. Because our profit on a particular installation is based in part on assumptions as to the cost of such project, damage for which we are liable, cost overruns, delays or other execution issues may cause us not to achieve our expected results or cover our costs for that project.

In addition, the installation of solar energy systems is subject to oversight and regulation in accordance with national, state and local laws and ordinances relating to building, fire and electrical codes, safety, environmental protection, utility interconnection and metering, and related matters. We also rely on certain of our employees to maintain professional licenses in many of the jurisdictions in which we operate, and our failure to employ properly licensed personnel could adversely affect our licensing status in those jurisdictions. It is difficult and costly to track the requirements of every authority having jurisdiction over our operations and our solar energy systems. Any new government regulations or utility policies pertaining to our systems, or changes to existing government regulations or utility policies pertaining to our systems, may result in significant additional expenses to us and our customers and, as a result, could cause a significant reduction in demand for our systems.

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We depend on a limited number of suppliers of solar energy system components and technologies to adequately meet anticipated demand for our solar energy systems. Due to the limited number of suppliers in our industry, the acquisition of any of these suppliers by a competitor or any shortage, delay, price change, imposition of tariffs or duties or other limitation in our ability to obtain components or technologies we use could result in sales and installation delays, cancellations and loss of market share.

We purchase solar panels, inverters and other system components from a limited number of suppliers, making us susceptible to quality issues, shortages and price changes. If we fail to develop, maintain and expand our relationships with our suppliers, our ability to adequately meet anticipated demand for our solar energy systems may be adversely affected, or we may only be able to offer our systems at higher costs or after delays. If one or more of the suppliers that we rely upon to meet anticipated demand ceases or reduces production due to its financial condition, acquisition by a competitor or otherwise, is unable to increase production as industry demand increases or is otherwise unable to allocate sufficient production to us, it may be difficult to quickly identify alternative suppliers or to qualify alternative products on commercially reasonable terms, and our ability to satisfy this demand may be adversely affected. There are a limited number of suppliers of solar energy system components and technologies. While we believe there are other sources of supply for these products available, transitioning to a new supplier may result in additional costs and delays in acquiring our solar products and deploying our systems, and may require us to obtain the approval of our financing partners in order to utilize new products. These issues could harm our business or financial performance.

There have also been periods of industry-wide shortages of key components, including solar panels, in times of rapid industry growth. The manufacturing infrastructure for some of these components has a long lead-time, requires significant capital investment and relies on the continued availability of key commodity materials, potentially resulting in an inability to meet demand for these components. The solar industry is growing and, as a result, shortages of key components, including solar panels, may be more likely to occur, which in turn may result in price increases for such components. Even if industry-wide shortages do not occur, suppliers may decide to allocate key components with high demand or insufficient production capacity to more profitable customers, customers with long-term supply agreements or customers other than us and our supply of such components may be reduced as a result.

We have entered into multi-year agreements with certain of our major suppliers, some of which include purchase commitments into 2021. These agreements are denominated in U.S. dollars. Since our revenue is also generated in U.S. dollars, we are mostly insulated from currency fluctuations. However, since our suppliers often incur a significant amount of their costs by purchasing raw materials and generating operating expenses in foreign currencies, if the value of the U.S. dollar depreciates significantly or for a prolonged period of time against these other currencies, this may cause our suppliers to raise the prices they charge us, which could harm our financial results. As noted above, the U.S. government has imposed a 30% tariff (decreasing by 5% each year for four years) on imports of solar cells not partially or fully assembled into other products and a 30% tariff (decreasing by 5% each year for four years) on imported solar panels from most foreign countries. It is unclear what further actions the current U.S. presidential administration may take with respect to existing and proposed trade agreements, or restrictions on trade generally. The existing tariffs, and any new tariffs, duties or other trade measures, or shortages, delays, price changes or other limitation in our ability to obtain components or technologies we use could limit our growth, cause cancellations or adversely affect our profitability, and result in loss of market share and damage to our brand.

The coronavirus outbreak could adversely affect our business.

In December 2019, the coronavirus emerged in China and as of the date of this report is continuing to spread globally, including the United States. Certain of the subcomponents of our equipment are sourced from Asia, including China and other countries in Southeast Asia that have been, or may be, significantly impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. The outbreak has resulted in travel and work restrictions within China and globally. Although as of the date of this report we have not observed any material impacts to our supply of components, the situation is fluid. Supply chain disruptions could reduce the availability of key components, increase prices or both. If we fail to identify or to qualify alternative products on commercially reasonable terms our operating results and growth prospects would be adversely affected.

In addition, the coronavirus outbreak could trigger volatility in the U.S. financial markets on which we rely to finance our business. In addition, broad macroeconomic weakness or widespread work restrictions could materially and adversely impact demand for our products.

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Our operating results may fluctuate from quarter to quarter and year to year, which could make our future performance difficult to predict and could cause our operating results for a particular period to fall below expectations, resulting in a severe decline in the price of our common stock.

Our quarterly and annual operating results are difficult to predict and may fluctuate significantly in the future. We have experienced seasonal and quarterly fluctuations in the past. However, given that we are in a growing industry, the true extent of these fluctuations may have been masked by our historical growth rates and thus may not be readily apparent from our historical operating results and may be difficult to predict. For example, the amount of revenue we recognize in a given period depends in part on the types of customer contracts we have entered into—because revenue from System Sales is recognized when the system is placed into service whereas revenue from our PPAs and Solar Leases is recognized over the contract life, which historically has been 20 years—and, in the case of PPAs and Solar Leases is dependent in part on the amount of energy generated by solar energy systems under such contracts. As a result, revenue derived from PPAs is impacted by seasonally shorter daylight hours in winter months. In addition, our ability to install solar energy systems is impacted by weather, such as during the winter months in the Northeast. Such delays can impact the timing of when we can install and begin to generate revenue from solar energy systems. As such, our past quarterly operating results may not be good indicators of future performance.

In addition to the other risks described in this “Risk Factors” section, the following factors could cause our operating results to fluctuate:

 

the expiration or initiation of any rebates or incentives;

 

significant fluctuations in customer demand for our offerings;

 

our ability to complete installations and interconnect to the power grid in a timely manner;

 

the availability and costs of suitable financing;

 

the amount and timing of sales of SRECs;

 

our ability to continue to expand our operations, and the amount and timing of, and our ability to manage, related expenditures;

 

our ability to manage our exposure to regulatory and legal action;

 

actual or anticipated changes in our growth rate relative to our competitors;

 

announcements by us or our competitors of significant acquisitions, strategic partnerships, joint ventures or capital-raising activities or commitments;

 

changes in our pricing policies or terms or those of our competitors, including traditional utilities; and

 

actual or anticipated developments in our competitors’ businesses or the competitive landscape.

For these or other reasons, the results of any prior quarterly or annual periods should not be relied upon as indications of our future performance. In addition, our actual revenue, key operating metrics and other operating results in future periods may fall short of the expectations of investors and financial analysts, which could have an adverse effect on the trading price of our common stock.

A failure to comply with laws and regulations relating to our interactions with current or prospective residential customers could result in negative publicity, claims, investigations and litigation, and adversely affect our financial performance.

Our business focuses on contracts and transactions with residential customers. We must comply with numerous federal, state and local laws and regulations that govern matters relating to our interactions with consumers, including those pertaining to privacy and data security, consumer financial and credit transactions, home improvement contracts, warranties, door-to-door solicitation as well as specific regulations pertaining to sales and installations of solar energy systems. These laws and regulations are dynamic and subject to potentially differing interpretations, and various federal, state and local legislative and regulatory bodies may initiate investigations, expand current laws or regulations, or enact new laws and regulations, regarding these matters. Changes in these laws or regulations or their interpretation could dramatically affect how we do business, acquire customers, and manage and use information we collect from and about current and prospective customers and the costs associated therewith.

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Several states in which we operate have enacted laws and regulations that provide enhanced rights and require increased disclosures to customers. Most of these laws and regulations are specific to the solar industry and have required changes to our contracts, processes and operations. Some of the laws have been enacted along with other changes to state law that further impact the residential solar industry. Other laws and regulations, such as the ones that relate to licensing of sales professionals, are applicable to a wide array of industries, and failure to comply with such regulations could result in citations, fines, license suspensions, revocations and other penalties. Further, to the extent that states undertake enforcement actions against us, or other states enact further laws or regulations applicable to our industry, we may be required to expend additional resources in order to modify our business practices to meet these regulatory requirements.

We strive to comply with all applicable laws and regulations relating to our interactions with residential customers. It is possible, however, that these requirements may be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent from one jurisdiction to another and may conflict with other rules or our practices. From time to time, we are or may become the subject of investigations and other formal and informal proceedings from various federal, state and local regulatory agencies, including, but not limited to, state attorney generals’ offices. For example, in March 2018, the New Mexico Attorney General’s office filed an action against us and certain of our officers alleging violation of state consumer protection statutes.

In January 2020, we entered into a settlement agreement called an Assurance of Discontinuance, or Settlement, with the New York Attorney General, or NYAG. The Settlement requires us to adopt certain changes to our sales and marketing practices in New York and pay approximately $2.0 million to the State of New York. We accrued this amount in our financial statements as of December 31, 2019, and already paid $1.0 million in January 2020. The Settlement requires us to notify New York customers about the Settlement and their potential rights under it, including the potential rights to have us remove their system, leave their property in a watertight condition, cancel contracts, and refund amounts paid, and/or to repair property damage. The NYAG will be the final arbiter of any disputes as to the consumer’s eligibility for relief. We have accrued another $2.0 million for this potential liability in general and administrative expenses for the period ending December 31, 2019, which represents our current best estimate of the potential loss. Future adjustments to our current accrual, which currently cannot be estimated, could adversely impact our operating results in the period or periods in which any such adjustments are made. Actual expenses may deviate materially from our estimate.

In addition, from time to time, regulatory agencies enact or amend regulations relating to the marketing of our products to residential customers. Any investigations, actions, adoption or amendment of regulations relating to the marketing of our products to residential consumers could divert management’s attention to our business, require us to modify our operations and incur significant additional expenses, which could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations or could reduce the number of our potential customers.

We cannot ensure that our sales professionals and other personnel will always comply with our standard practices and policies, as well as applicable laws and regulations. In any of the numerous interactions between our sales professionals or other personnel and our customers or potential customers, our sales professionals or other personnel may, without our knowledge and despite our efforts to effectively train them and enforce compliance, engage in conduct that is or may be prohibited under our standard practices and policies and applicable laws and regulations. Any such non-compliance, or the perception of non-compliance, has exposed us to claims and could expose us to additional claims, proceedings, litigation, investigations, or enforcement actions by private parties or regulatory authorities, as well as substantial fines and negative publicity, each of which may materially and adversely affect our business and reputation. We have incurred, and will continue to incur, significant expenses to comply with the laws, regulations and industry standards that apply to us.

We are involved, and may become involved in the future, in legal proceedings that, if adversely adjudicated or settled, could adversely affect our financial results.

We are, and may in the future become, subject to claims, proceedings, litigation, investigations or enforcement actions by private parties or regulatory authorities. For examples, see Note 19—Commitments and Contingencies. While we intend to defend against these actions vigorously, the ultimate outcomes of certain of these cases are presently not determinable as they are in preliminary phases. In general, legal proceedings can be expensive and time consuming to bring or defend against, may result in the diversion of management attention and resources from our business and business goals, may harm our brand and reputation and could result in settlements or damages that could significantly affect our financial results and how we conduct our business. It is not possible to predict the final resolution of the legal proceedings to which we currently are or may in the future become party, and the impact of certain of these matters on our business, prospects, financial condition, liquidity, results of operations and cash flows.

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The profitability and residual value of our solar energy systems during and at the end of the associated term of the PPA or Solar Lease may be lower than projected today and adversely affect our financial performance and valuation.

We maintain ownership of the solar energy systems that we install under our PPAs or Solar Leases. We amortize the costs of our solar energy systems over a 30-year estimated useful life, which exceeds the period of the component warranties and the corresponding payment streams from our contracts with our customers. If we incur repair and maintenance costs on these systems after the warranties have expired, and if they then fail or malfunction, we will be liable for the expense of repairing these systems without a chance of recovery from our suppliers. We are also contractually obligated to remove, store and reinstall the solar energy systems, in many cases for a nominal fee, if customers need to replace or repair their roofs. However, customer fees may not cover our costs to remove, store and reinstall the solar energy systems. In addition, we typically bear the cost of removing the solar energy systems at the end of the term of the customer contract if the customer does not renew his or her contract or purchase the system. Furthermore, it is difficult to predict how future environmental regulations may affect the costs associated with the removal, disposal or recycling of our solar energy systems. We also face other factors that could increase the costs or diminish the production of a solar energy system, such as unanticipated damage or malfunctions, animal interference and weather-related matters. If the residual value of the systems is less than we expect at the end of the customer contract, after giving effect to any associated removal and redeployment costs, we may be required to accelerate all or some of the remaining unamortized costs. If the profitability or the residual value of the systems is lower than expected, this could materially impair our future operating results and estimated retained value.

Compliance with occupational safety and health requirements and best practices can be costly, and noncompliance with such requirements may result in potentially significant monetary penalties, operational delays and adverse publicity.

The installation of solar energy systems requires our employees to work at heights with complicated and potentially dangerous electrical systems and at potentially high temperatures. The evaluation and modification of buildings as part of the installation process requires our employees to work in locations that may contain potentially dangerous levels of asbestos, lead, mold or other materials known or believed to be hazardous to human health. We also maintain a fleet of over 900 trucks and other vehicles to support our installers and operations. There is substantial risk of serious injury or death if proper safety procedures are not followed. Our operations are subject to regulation under OSHA, DOT, and equivalent state laws. Changes to OSHA, DOT or state requirements, or stricter interpretation or enforcement of existing laws or regulations, could result in increased costs. If we fail to comply with applicable OSHA regulations, even if no work-related serious injury or death occurs, we may be subject to civil or criminal enforcement and be required to pay substantial penalties, incur significant capital expenditures or suspend or limit operations. We could be exposed to increased liability in the future. In the past, we have had workplace accidents and received citations from OSHA regulators for alleged safety violations, resulting in fines. Any such accidents, citations, violations, injuries or failure to comply with industry best practices may subject us to adverse publicity, damage our reputation and competitive position and adversely affect our business or financial performance.

Problems with product quality or performance may cause us to incur expenses, may lower the residual value of our solar energy systems and may damage our market reputation and adversely affect our financial results.

We agree to maintain the solar energy systems installed on our customers’ homes in connection with a PPA or Solar Lease during the length of the term of our customer contracts, which has historically been 20 years and is 20 or 25 years beginning in 2020. We are exposed to any liabilities arising from the systems’ failure to operate properly and are generally under an obligation to ensure that each system remains in good condition during the term of the agreement. We also agree to provide a workmanship warranty for the solar energy systems we sell to customers for a period of one to ten years and in many cases have agreed to operate and maintain those systems for no additional charge. As part of our operations and maintenance work, we provide a pass-through of the inverter and panel manufacturers’ warranty coverage to our System Sales customers, which generally range from ten to 20 years. We also take advantage of manufacturers’ warranty coverage when maintaining solar energy systems installed under PPAs and Solar Leases. One or more of these third-party manufacturers could cease operations and no longer honor these warranties, leaving us to fulfill these potential obligations to our customers or to our fund investors without underlying warranty coverage. We, either ourselves or through our investment funds, bear the cost of such major equipment. Even if the investment fund bears the direct expense of such replacement equipment, we could suffer financial losses associated with a loss of production from the solar energy systems.

To be competitive in the market and to comply with the requirements of our jurisdictions, our Solar Leases contain a performance guarantee in favor of the customer. Solar Leases with performance guarantees require us to refund certain payments to the customer if the solar energy system fails to generate a stated minimum amount of electricity in a 12-month period. We may also suffer financial losses associated with such refunds if significant performance guarantee payments are triggered.

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Our failure to accurately predict future liabilities related to material quality or performance expenses could result in unexpected volatility in our financial condition. Because of the long estimated useful life of our solar energy systems, we have been required to make assumptions and apply judgments regarding a number of factors, including our anticipated rate of warranty claims, and the durability, performance and reliability of our solar energy systems. We have made these assumptions based on the historic performance of similar systems or on accelerated life cycle testing. Our assumptions could prove to be materially different from the actual performance of our systems, causing us to incur substantial expense to repair or replace defective solar energy systems in the future or to compensate customers for systems that do not meet their performance guarantees. Equipment defects, serial defects or operational deficiencies also would reduce our revenue from customer contracts because the customer payments under such agreements are dependent on system production or would require us to make refunds under performance guarantees. Any widespread product failures or operating deficiencies may damage our market reputation and adversely impact our financial results.

We are responsible for providing maintenance, repair and billing on solar energy systems that are owned or leased by our investment funds on a fixed fee basis, and our financial performance could be adversely affected if our cost of providing such services is higher than we project.

We typically provide a workmanship warranty for periods of five to 20 years to our investment funds for every system we sell to them. We are also generally contractually obligated to cover the cost of maintenance, repair and billing on any solar energy systems that we sell or lease to our investment funds. We are subject to a maintenance services agreement under which we are required to operate and maintain the system and perform customer billing services for a fixed fee that is calculated to cover our future expected maintenance and servicing costs of the solar energy systems in each investment fund over the term of the PPA or Solar Lease with the covered customers. If our solar energy systems require an above-average number of repairs or if the cost of repairing systems were higher than our estimate, we would need to perform such repairs without additional compensation. If our solar energy systems are damaged in the event of a natural disaster beyond our control, such as an earthquake, tornado, wildfire, tsunami or hurricane, losses could be outside the scope of insurance policies or exceed insurance policy limits, and we could incur unforeseen costs that could harm our business and financial condition. We may also incur significant costs for taking other actions in preparation for, or in reaction to, such events. When required to do so under the terms of a particular investment fund, we purchase property and business interruption insurance or other insurance policies with industry standard coverage and limits approved by the investor’s third-party insurance advisors to hedge against risk, but such coverage may not cover our losses, and we have not acquired such coverage for all of our funds.

Product liability claims against us or accidents could result in adverse publicity and potentially significant monetary damages.

If our solar energy systems or other products were to injure someone, we could be exposed to product liability claims. In addition, it is possible that our products could cause property damage as a result of product malfunctions, defects, improper installation, fire or other causes. We rely on our general liability insurance to cover product liability claims. Any product liability claims we face could be expensive to defend and divert management’s attention. The successful assertion of product liability claims against us could result in potentially significant monetary damages, penalties or fines, increase our insurance rates, subject us to adverse publicity, damage our reputation and competitive position and adversely affect sales of our systems and other products. In addition, product liability claims, injuries, defects or other problems experienced by other companies in the residential solar industry could lead to unfavorable market conditions to the industry as a whole and may have an adverse effect on our ability to attract new customers, thus affecting our growth and financial performance.

Failure by our component suppliers to use ethical business practices and comply with applicable laws and regulations may adversely affect our business.

We do not control our suppliers or their business practices. Accordingly, we cannot guarantee that they follow ethical business practices such as fair wage practices and compliance with environmental, safety and other local laws. A lack of demonstrated compliance could lead us to seek alternative suppliers, which could increase our costs and result in delayed delivery of our products, product shortages or other disruptions of our operations. Violation of labor or other laws by our suppliers or the divergence of a supplier’s labor or other practices from those generally accepted as ethical in the United States or other markets in which we do business could also attract negative publicity for us and harm our business.

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Damage to our brand and reputation, or change or loss of use of our brand, could harm our business and results of operations.

We depend significantly on our reputation for high-quality products, customer service and the brand name “Vivint Solar” to attract new customers and grow our business. If we fail to continue to deliver our solar energy systems within the planned timelines, if our sales professionals fail to adhere to our standards, if our offerings do not perform as anticipated or if we damage any of our customers’ properties or delay or cancel projects, our brand and reputation could be significantly impaired. Future technical improvements may allow us to offer lower prices or offer new technology to new customers; however, technical limitations in our current solar energy systems may prevent us from offering such lower prices or new technology to our existing customers. The inability of our current customers to benefit from technological improvements could cause our existing customers to lower the value they perceive our existing products offer and impair our brand and reputation.

We have focused particular attention on growing the headcount of our direct-to-home sales professionals, leading us in some instances to take on candidates who we later determined did not meet our standards. In addition, given the sheer number of interactions our sales professionals and other personnel have with customers and potential customers, it is inevitable that some customers’ and potential customers’ interactions with our company will be perceived as less than satisfactory. This has led to instances of customer complaints, some of which have resulted in litigation and affected our digital footprint on rating websites and social media platforms. If our hiring, training and management processes fail to eliminate these issues, our reputation may be harmed and our ability to attract new customers could suffer.

Given our relationship with our sister company Vivint and the similarity in our names, customers may associate us with any problems experienced with Vivint, such as complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Because we have no control over Vivint, we cannot take remedial action to cure any issues Vivint has with its customers, and our brand and reputation may be harmed if we are mistaken for the same company.

In addition, if we were to no longer use, lose the right to continue to use, or if others use, the “Vivint Solar” brand, we could lose recognition in the marketplace among customers, suppliers and partners, which could affect our growth and financial performance, and would require financial and other investment, and management attention in new branding, which may not be as successful.

Marketplace confidence in our liquidity and long-term business prospects is important for building and maintaining our business.

Our financial condition, operating results and business prospects may suffer materially if we are unable to establish and maintain confidence about our liquidity and business prospects among consumers and within our industry. Our solar energy systems require ongoing maintenance and support. If we were to reduce operations now or in the future, existing buyers of our systems might have difficulty in having us repair or service our systems, which remain our responsibility under the terms of many of our customer contracts. As a result, consumers may be less likely to purchase our solar energy systems now if they are uncertain that our business will succeed or that our operations will continue for many years. Similarly, suppliers and other third parties will be less likely to invest time and resources in developing business relationships with us if they are not convinced that our business will succeed. Accordingly, in order to build and maintain our business, we must maintain confidence among customers, suppliers and other parties in our liquidity and long-term business prospects. We may not succeed in our efforts to build this confidence.

If we fail to manage our recent and future operations and growth effectively, we may be unable to execute our business plan, maintain high levels of customer service or adequately address competitive challenges.

We have experienced growth in recent periods with the cumulative capacity of our solar energy systems growing from 1,060.9 megawatts as of December 31, 2018 to 1,294.0 megawatts as of December 31, 2019, and we intend to continue to expand our business within existing markets, in a number of new locations and through new sales channels in the future. This growth has placed, and any future growth may place, a strain on our management, operational and financial infrastructure. Our operations, growth and expansion require significant time and effort on the part of our management team as it is required to maintain and expand our relationships with customers, suppliers and other third parties and attract new customers, suppliers, sales channel partners and financing, as well as manage multiple geographic locations.

In addition, our current and planned operations, personnel, information technology and other systems and procedures might be inadequate to support our future growth and may require us to make additional unanticipated investments in our infrastructure. Furthermore, an inability to generate cash from operating and financing activities may impact our growth prospects. Our success and ability to further scale our business will depend, in part, on our ability to manage these changes in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

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If we cannot manage our operations and growth, we may be unable to meet our or industry analysts’ expectations regarding growth, opportunity and financial targets, take advantage of market opportunities, execute our business strategies, meet our investment fund commitments or respond to competitive pressures. This could also result in declines in quality or customer satisfaction, increased costs, difficulties in introducing new offerings or other operational difficulties. Any failure to effectively manage our operations and growth could adversely impact our business and reputation.

Expansion into new markets could be costly and time-consuming. Historically, we have only provided our offerings to residential customers, which could put us at a disadvantage relative to companies who also compete in other markets.

We have historically only provided our offerings to residential customers. We compete with companies who sell solar energy systems in the commercial, industrial and government markets, in addition to the residential market. While we believe that in the future we could have opportunities to expand our operations into other markets, there are no assurances that our design and installation systems will work for non-residential customers or that we will be able to compete successfully with companies with historical presences in such markets or we may not realize the anticipated benefits of entering such markets, and entering new markets has numerous risks, including the following:

 

incurring significant costs if we are required to adapt our current or develop new design and installation processes for use in non-residential applications;

 

diversion of our management and employees from our core residential business;

 

difficulty adapting our current or developing new marketing strategies and sales channels to non-residential customers;

 

inability to obtain key customers, brand recognition and market share and compete successfully with companies with historical presences in such markets; and

 

inability to achieve the financial and strategic goals for such market.

If we choose to pursue opportunities in additional markets, including batteries, electric vehicle charging stations or generators, and are unable to successfully compete in such markets, our operating results and growth prospects could be materially adversely affected. Additionally, there is intense competition in the residential solar energy market in the markets in which we operate. As new entrants continue to enter into these markets, we may be unable to gain or maintain market share and we may be unable to compete with companies that earn revenue in both the residential market and non-residential markets.

We may not realize the anticipated benefits of future acquisitions or strategic initiatives, and integration of any acquisition or implementation of any strategic initiatives may disrupt our business and management.

In the future we may acquire companies, project pipelines or portfolios, products or technologies or enter into joint ventures or other strategic initiatives. We may not realize the anticipated benefits of any future acquisition or strategic initiative, and any acquisition or strategic initiative has numerous risks. These risks include the following:

 

difficulty in assimilating the operations and personnel;

 

difficulty in effectively integrating the acquired technologies or products with our current technologies;

 

difficulty in maintaining controls, procedures and policies during the transition and integration;

 

disruption of our ongoing business and distraction of our management and employees from other opportunities and challenges due to integration issues;

 

difficulty integrating accounting, management information and other administrative systems;

 

inability to retain key technical and managerial personnel;

 

inability to retain key customers, vendors and other business partners;

 

inability to achieve the financial and strategic goals for the acquired or combined businesses;

 

incurring acquisition-related costs or amortization costs for acquired intangible assets that could impact our operating results;

 

potential failure of the due diligence processes to identify significant issues with product quality, intellectual property infringement and other legal, regulatory and financial liabilities, among other things;

 

potential inability to assert that internal controls over financial reporting are effective; and

 

potential inability to obtain, or obtain in a timely manner, approvals from governmental authorities, which could delay or prevent such acquisitions.

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Acquisitions of companies or strategic initiatives are inherently risky, and if we do not complete integration or implementation successfully and in a timely manner, we may not realize the anticipated benefits of the acquisitions or strategic initiatives to the extent anticipated, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.

The loss of one or more members of our senior management or key employees may adversely affect our ability to implement our strategy.

We are highly dependent on the efforts and abilities of the principal members of our senior management team, and the loss of one or more key executives could have a negative impact on our business.

We also depend on our ability to retain and motivate key employees and attract qualified new employees. None of our key executives are bound by employment agreements for any specific term, and we do not maintain key person life insurance policies on any of our executive officers. Our compensation structure, which includes salary, bonus, equity and benefits components, is important to our ability to attract, retain and motivate our employees. If we do not provide adequate compensation, or appropriately structure our equity grants, we may be unable to maintain our current workforce or attract new talent in the future, and we may be unable to replace key members of our management team and key employees if we lose their services. Integrating new employees into our team could prove disruptive to our operations, require substantial resources and management attention and ultimately prove unsuccessful. An inability to attract and retain sufficient managerial personnel who have critical industry experience and relationships could limit or delay our strategic efforts, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

We may be subject to intellectual property rights claims by third parties, which are extremely costly to defend, could require us to pay significant damages and could limit our ability to use certain technologies.

Third parties, including our competitors, may own patents or other intellectual property rights that cover aspects of our technology or business methods. Such parties may claim we have misappropriated, misused, violated or infringed third party intellectual property rights, and, if we gain greater recognition in the market, we face a higher risk of being the subject of claims that we have violated others’ intellectual property rights. Any claim that we violate a third party’s intellectual property rights, whether with or without merit, could be time-consuming, expensive to settle or litigate and could divert our management’s attention and other resources. If we do not successfully settle or defend an intellectual property claim, we could be liable for significant monetary damages and could be prohibited from continuing to use certain technology, business methods, content or brands. To avoid a prohibition, we could seek a license from third parties, which could require us to pay significant royalties, increasing our operating expenses. If a license is not available at all or not available on reasonable terms, we may be required to develop or license a non-violating alternative, either of which could require significant effort and expense. If we cannot license or develop a non-violating alternative, we would be forced to limit or stop sales of our offerings and may be unable to effectively compete. Any of these results would adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows. To deter other companies from making intellectual property claims against us or to gain leverage in settlement negotiations, we may be forced to significantly increase the size of our intellectual property portfolio through internal efforts and acquisitions from third parties, both of which could require significant expenditures. However, a robust intellectual property portfolio may provide little or no deterrence, particularly for patent holding companies or other patent owners that have no relevant product revenues.

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We use “open source” software in our solutions, which may restrict how we distribute our offerings, require that we release the source code of certain software subject to open source licenses or subject us to possible litigation or other actions that could adversely affect our business.

We currently use in our solutions, and expect to continue to use in the future, software that is licensed under so-called “open source,” “free” or other similar licenses. Open source software is made available to the general public on an “as-is” basis under the terms of a non-negotiable license. We currently combine our proprietary software with open source software but not in a manner that we believe requires the release of the source code of our proprietary software to the public. We do not plan to integrate our proprietary software with open source software in ways that would require the release of the source code of our proprietary software to the public, however, our use and distribution of open source software may entail greater risks than use of third-party commercial software. Open source licensors generally do not provide warranties or other contractual protections regarding infringement claims or the quality of the code. In addition, if we combine our proprietary software with open source software in a certain manner, we could, under certain open source licenses, be required to release to the public or remove the source code of our proprietary software. We may also face claims alleging noncompliance with open source license terms or infringement or misappropriation of proprietary software. These claims could result in litigation, require us to purchase a costly license or remove the software. In addition, if the license terms for open source software that we use change, we may be forced to re-engineer our solutions, incur additional costs or discontinue the sale of our offerings if re-engineering could not be accomplished on a timely basis. Although we monitor our use of open source software to avoid subjecting our offerings to unintended conditions, few courts have interpreted open source licenses, and there is a risk that these licenses could be construed in a way that could impose unanticipated conditions or restrictions on our ability to commercialize our offerings. We cannot guarantee that we have incorporated open source software in our software in a manner that will not subject us to liability, or in a manner that is consistent with our current policies and procedures.

We may experience increased costs, disruptions or other difficulties with the implementation, operation and functionality of our new enterprise resource planning system.

We have implemented a new enterprise resource planning, or ERP, system, which replaces or enhances certain internal financial and operating systems that are critical to our business operations. The implementation, operation and functionality of our new ERP system has required and will continue to require a significant investment of human, technological, and financial resources. Although we have invested, and continue to invest, significant resources in planning, project management, consulting and training, it is possible that significant operational and functionality issues may arise during the course of utilizing our new ERP system, including difficulties paying vendors, invoicing customers and tracking inventory. It is also possible that we may experience significant delays, increased costs and other difficulties that are not presently contemplated. Any significant disruptions, delays, deficiencies or errors in the design, implementation and utilization of our new ERP system could adversely affect our operations, prevent us from accurately and timely reporting our financial results and negatively impact our business, results of operations and financial condition.

The installation and operation of solar energy systems depends heavily on suitable solar and meteorological conditions. If meteorological conditions are unexpectedly unfavorable, the electricity production from our solar energy systems may be substantially below our expectations and our ability to timely deploy new systems may be adversely impacted.

The energy produced and revenue and cash receipts generated by a solar energy system depend on suitable solar, atmospheric and weather conditions, all of which are beyond our control. Furthermore, components of our systems, such as panels and inverters, could be damaged by severe weather or other natural disasters, such as hailstorms, hurricanes, lightning or wildfires. Although we maintain insurance to cover for many such casualty events, our investment funds would be obligated to bear the expense of repairing the damaged solar energy systems, sometimes subject to limitations based on our ability to successfully make warranty claims. Our economic model and projected returns on our systems require us to achieve certain production results from our systems and, in some cases, we guarantee these results for both our customers and our investors. If the systems underperform for any reason, our financial results could suffer. These risks are amplified by the anticipated increase in the frequency of extreme weather events due to rising average temperatures worldwide.

Sustained unfavorable weather also could delay our installation of solar energy systems, leading to increased expenses and decreased revenue and cash receipts in the relevant periods. We have experienced seasonal fluctuations in our operations. The amount of revenue we recognize in a given period from PPAs is dependent in part on the amount of energy generated by solar energy systems under such contracts. As a result, customer agreements and incentives revenue is impacted by seasonally shorter daylight hours in winter months. In addition, our ability to install solar energy systems is impacted by weather. We have limited ability to install solar energy systems during the winter months in the Northeast. Such delays can impact the timing of when we can install and begin to generate revenue from solar energy systems. However, given that we are in a growing industry, the true extent of these fluctuations may have been masked by our historical growth rates and thus may not be readily apparent from our historical operating results and may be difficult to predict. As such, our historical operating results may not be indicative of future performance. Furthermore, weather patterns could change, making it harder to predict the average annual amount of sunlight striking each location where we install a solar energy system. This could make our solar energy systems less economical individually or in the aggregate. Any of these events or conditions could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

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Disruptions to our solar monitoring systems could negatively impact the operation of our business and our revenues and increase our expenses.

Our ability to accurately charge our customers for the energy produced by our solar energy systems depends on our ability to monitor our customers’ solar energy systems. Our customer agreements require our customers to maintain a broadband internet connection so that we may receive data regarding solar energy system production from their home networks. We could incur significant expenses or disruptions of our operations in connection with failures of our solar monitoring systems, including failures of our customers’ home networks that would prevent us from accurately monitoring solar energy production. In addition, sophisticated hardware and operating system software and applications that we procure from third parties may contain defects in design or manufacture, including “bugs” and other problems that could unexpectedly interfere with the operation of our systems. The costs to us to eliminate or alleviate viruses and bugs, or any problems associated with failures of our customers’ home networks could be significant, and the efforts to address these problems could result in interruptions, delays or cessation of service that may impede our sales, distribution or other critical functions. When a customer’s solar monitoring system is not properly communicating with us, we estimate the production of their solar energy systems. Such estimates may prove inaccurate and could cause us to underestimate the power being generated by our solar energy systems and undercharge our customers, thereby harming our results of operations.

We are exposed to the credit risk of our customers.

Our customers most commonly purchase energy or lease solar energy systems from us pursuant to one of two types of long-term contracts: a PPA or a Solar Lease. The terms of PPAs and Solar Leases are for 20 or 25 years and require the customer to make monthly payments to us. Accordingly, we are subject to the credit risk of our customers. As of December 31, 2019, the average FICO score of our customers was approximately 755. However, as we grow our business, the risk of customer defaults could increase. Our reserve for this exposure is estimated to be $9.4 million as of December 31, 2019, and our future exposure may exceed the amount of such reserves. While we do not currently extend credit to customers interested in System Sales, many of those customers are interested in financing the purchase of a solar energy system. While these customers may seek third-party financing through their own lender or lenders with whom we have relationships, if they do not have sufficient credit to qualify for a loan, they may be unable to purchase a solar energy system. This could reduce our potential customer pool and limit our System Sales.

Any unauthorized access to, or disclosure or theft of personal information or other proprietary information we gather, store or use could harm our reputation and subject us to claims or litigation.

We receive, store and use personal information of our customers, including names, addresses, e-mail addresses, credit information and other housing and energy use information. We also store and use personal information of our employees. In addition, we previously used certain shared information and technology systems with Vivint, and Vivint continues to store some of our historical data. We also receive and maintain confidential information about our own business, including trade secrets and sensitive business information, and receive confidential information from third parties. We engage third-party vendors and service providers to store and otherwise process some of our and our customers’ data, including sensitive and personal information. We and our vendors and service providers may be the targets of cyberattacks, malicious software, phishing schemes, and fraud, and we and our vendors and service providers may suffer cybersecurity breaches and other security incidents due to these and other causes, including employee or contractor error. Our ability to monitor our vendors and service providers’ data security is limited, and, in any event, third parties may be able to circumvent those security measures, resulting in the unauthorized access to, misuse, disclosure, loss or destruction of our and our customers’ data, including sensitive and personal information.

We take certain steps in an effort to protect the security, integrity and confidentiality of the personal information and other proprietary and confidential information we collect, store or transmit, but due to the factors detailed above, there is no guarantee that inadvertent or unauthorized use or disclosure will not occur or that third parties will not gain unauthorized access to the information despite our efforts and those of our vendors and service providers. Because techniques used to obtain unauthorized access or sabotage systems change frequently and generally are not identified until they are launched against a target, we and our suppliers or vendors, including Vivint, may be unable to anticipate these techniques, to implement adequate preventative or mitigation measures, to identify any attacks or incidents on a timely basis, or to remediate or otherwise address any attacks or incidents in a timely manner. In addition, due to a potential time lapse between when certain of our contracted sales professionals and other independent contractors leave us and when we are made aware of their separation, such contracted sales professionals and other independent contractors may have continued access to our customers’ information for a period of time when they should not have such access until we are able to restrict their access.

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We are also subject to laws and regulations relating to the collection, use, retention, security and transfer of personal information of our customers and other individuals. In many cases, these laws apply not only to third-party transactions, but also to transfers of information between one company and its subsidiaries. Several jurisdictions have passed new laws in this area, and other jurisdictions are considering imposing additional restrictions. These laws continue to develop and may be inconsistent from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA, became operational on January 1, 2020. The CCPA requires covered companies to, among other things, provide new disclosures to California consumers, and affords such consumers new abilities to opt-out of certain sales of personal information. Certain aspects of the CCPA and its interpretation remain uncertain and are likely to remain uncertain for an extended period, and we cannot predict the full impact of the CCPA on our business or operations. The CCPA has required us to modify our data practices and policies, and to incur costs and expenses, in an effort to comply. In addition to government regulation, privacy advocates and industry groups may propose new and different self-regulatory standards that either legally or contractually apply to us, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, or PCI DSS, which may affect any processes associated with handling credit card numbers. In the event we fail to be compliant with the PCI DSS, we could suffer consequences including fines, other costs and penalties, and the potential loss of our ability to accept payments via credit cards. Complying with emerging and changing requirements may cause us to incur costs or require us to change our business practices. Any actual or alleged failure by us, our affiliates or other parties with whom we do business to comply with privacy-related or data protection laws, regulations and industry standards could result in proceedings against us by governmental entities or others, which could have a detrimental effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

Any actual or perceived unauthorized use or disclosure of, or access to, any personal information or other proprietary or confidential information maintained by us or on our behalf, whether through breach of our systems, breach of the systems of our suppliers or vendors, including Vivint, by an unauthorized party, or through employee or contractor error, theft or misuse, or otherwise, could result in harm to our business and results of operations. If any such unauthorized use or disclosure of, or access to, such personal information or other information were to occur or to be believed to have occurred, our operations could be seriously disrupted, and we could be subject to demands, claims and litigation by private parties, and investigations, related actions, and penalties by regulatory authorities. In addition, we could incur significant costs in notifying affected persons and entities and otherwise complying with the multitude of federal, state and local laws and regulations relating to unauthorized access to, or use or disclosure of, personal information or other information. Finally, any perceived or actual unauthorized access to, or use or disclosure of, such information could harm our reputation, substantially impair our ability to attract and retain customers and have an adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Even the perception of inadequate security may damage our reputation and negatively impact our ability to win new customers and retain existing customers. Further, we could be required to expend significant capital and other resources to address any data security incident or breach and to implement measures in an effort to prevent further breaches or incidents.

In addition, we cannot assure that any limitation of liability provisions in our customer and user agreements, contracts with third-party vendors and service providers or other contracts would be enforceable or adequate or would otherwise protect us from any liabilities or damages with respect to any particular claim relating to a security breach or other security-related matter. While our insurance policies include liability coverage for certain of these matters, if we experienced a widespread security breach or other incident that impacted a significant number of our customers to whom we owe indemnity obligations, we could be subject to indemnity claims or other damages that exceed our insurance coverage. We also cannot be certain that our insurance coverage will be adequate for data handling or data security liabilities actually incurred, that insurance will continue to be available to us on economically reasonable terms, or at all, or that any future claims will not be excluded or otherwise denied coverage by any insurer. The successful assertion of one or more large claims against us that exceed available insurance coverage, or the occurrence of changes in our insurance policies, including premium increases or the imposition of large deductible or co-insurance requirements, could have a material adverse effect on our business, including our financial condition, operating results and reputation.

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Risks Related to our Relationship with Vivint

Our inability to resolve any disputes that arise between us and Vivint with respect to our past and ongoing relationships may adversely affect our financial results, and such disputes may also result in claims for indemnification.

Disputes may arise between Vivint and us in a number of areas relating to our past and ongoing relationships, including the following:

 

intellectual property, labor, tax, employee benefits, indemnification and other matters arising from our relationship with Vivint;

 

employee retention and recruiting;

 

our ability to use, modify and enhance the intellectual property that we have licensed from Vivint;

 

business combinations or divestitures;

 

exclusivity arrangements;

 

the nature, quality and pricing of products and services Vivint agrees to provide to us; and

 

business opportunities that may be attractive to both Vivint and us.

On January 17, 2020, Vivint merged with Mosaic Acquisition Corp. to become a publicly traded company and our Sponsor currently continues to own a majority interest in both Vivint and us. However, we anticipate that we will eventually cease to be a “controlled company.”

We have entered into certain agreements with Vivint. In August 2017, we entered into a sales dealer agreement with Vivint, which was amended and restated in March 2020. Under this agreement, each party will act as a dealer for the other party to market, promote and sell each other’s products. The agreement has a one-year term, which automatically renews for successive one-year terms unless written notice of termination is provided by one of the parties to the other no less than 90 days prior to the end of the then current term. The products, territories and consideration that is payable by each party to the other is determined in accordance with the agreement. There can be no assurances regarding the number of sales and installations of our products that Vivint will be able to generate, or the number of leads that we will be able to generate. In addition, as we work to expand our customer opportunities and product offerings through our relationship with Vivint, our business and results of operations may be adversely affected by factors that affect Vivint’s business and our relationship. Pursuant to the terms of a Recruiting Services Agreement we have entered into with Vivint in March 2020, we and Vivint each have agreed not to solicit for employment any member of the other’s executive or senior management team, any dealer, or any of the other’s employees who primarily manage sales, installation or services of the other’s products and services until the termination of the Recruiting Services Agreement. The commitment not to solicit each other’s employees lasts for 180 days after such employee finishes employment with us or Vivint. Notwithstanding the above, a small number of sales professionals work for both Vivint and us. To the extent there is any confusion concerning the relationship between us and Vivint with respect to the products and services we offer and the products and services of Vivint, such sales professionals could expose us to increased claims, proceedings, litigation and investigations by consumers and regulatory authorities. In addition, having sales professionals who work for both Vivint and us could distract such sales professionals, impact the effectiveness of our sales professionals, and potentially increase the turnover of our existing sales professionals who may feel displaced by the addition of Vivint sales professionals to our existing sales professionals. Pursuant to the terms of the Subscriber Generation Agreement we have entered into with Vivint Amigo, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vivint, in March 2020, Vivint employees will use the Amigo Application to provide lead generation services.

We may not be able to resolve any potential conflicts relating to these agreements or otherwise, and even if we do, the resolution may be less favorable than if we were dealing with an unaffiliated party for so long as Vivint remains our sister company. In addition, we have indemnification obligations under some of the agreements we have entered into with Vivint, and disputes between us and Vivint may result in claims for indemnification. However, we do not currently expect that these indemnification obligations will materially affect our potential liability compared to what it would be if we did not enter into these agreements with Vivint.

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Risks Related to Our Common Stock

The price of our common stock may be volatile, and the value of your investment could decline.

The trading price of our common stock may be highly volatile. From our initial public offering on October 1, 2014 to December 31, 2019, the closing price of our common stock has ranged from a high of $16.01 to a low of $2.22. Our stock price could continue to be subject to wide fluctuations in response to various factors, some of which are beyond our control. These factors include:

 

our financial condition and the availability and terms of future financing;

 

changes in laws or regulations applicable to our industry or offerings, including any new tariffs or trade regulations that affect our ability to import goods at attractive prices or at all;

 

additions or departures of key personnel;

 

actual or anticipated changes in expectations regarding our performance by investors or securities analysts;

 

securities litigation involving us;

 

price and volume fluctuations in the overall stock market;

 

volatility in the market price and trading volume of companies in our industry or companies that investors consider comparable;

 

actual or perceived privacy or data security incidents;

 

share price and volume fluctuations attributable to inconsistent trading volume levels of our shares;

 

the failure of securities analysts to cover our common stock;

 

our ability to protect our intellectual property and other proprietary rights;

 

sales of our common stock by us, our stockholders, employees or members of our board of directors, including sales of equity awards granted to our employees to cover tax withholding obligations;

 

litigation or disputes involving us, our industry or both;

 

major catastrophic events;

 

general economic and market conditions;

 

potential acquisitions; and

 

negative publicity, including accurate or inaccurate commentary or reports regarding us, our products, our sales professionals or other personnel, or other third parties affiliated with us, on social media platforms, blogs and other websites.

Further, the stock markets have experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have affected and continue to affect the market prices of equity securities of many companies. These fluctuations often have been unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of those companies. In addition, the stock prices of many renewable energy companies have experienced wide fluctuations that have often been unrelated to the operating performance of those companies. These broad market and industry fluctuations, as well as general economic, political and market conditions such as recessions, interest rate changes or international currency fluctuations, may cause the market price of our common stock to decline. If the market price of our common stock decreases, investors may not realize any return on investment and may lose some or all of their investments. In the past, companies that have experienced volatility in the market price of their stock have been subject to securities class action litigation. We could become the target of additional securities litigation in the future, which could result in substantial costs and divert our management’s attention from other business concerns, which could seriously harm our business.

If we fail to maintain proper and effective internal controls, our ability to produce accurate and timely financial statements could be impaired, which could harm our operating results, our ability to operate our business and investors’ views of us.

Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires public companies to conduct an annual review and evaluation of their internal controls. Our failure to maintain the effectiveness of our internal controls in accordance with the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act could have a material adverse effect on our business. If we do not effectively implement and utilize our new ERP system as planned or the system does not operate as intended, the effectiveness of our internal controls over financial reporting could be adversely affected or our ability to adequately assess it could be delayed. Failure to maintain effective internal controls could cause investors to lose confidence in the accuracy and completeness of our financial reports, which could have an adverse effect on our stock price. In addition, if our efforts to comply with new or changed laws, regulations and standards differ from the activities intended by regulatory or governing bodies due to ambiguities related to practice, regulatory authorities may initiate legal proceedings against us and our business may be harmed.

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Additionally, beginning with this 2019 Annual Report on Form 10-K, we are required to obtain an annual audit of our internal controls over financial reporting from our independent registered public accounting firm under Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Our compliance with applicable provisions of Section 404 will require that we incur substantial accounting expense and expend significant management time on compliance-related issues as we implement additional corporate governance practices and comply with reporting requirements. Moreover, if we are not able to comply with the requirements of Section 404 applicable to us in a timely manner, or if we or our independent registered public accounting firm identify deficiencies in our internal control over financial reporting that are deemed to be material weaknesses, the market price of our stock could decline and we could be subject to sanctions or investigations by the SEC or other regulatory authorities, which would require additional financial and management resources.

Furthermore, investor perceptions of our company may suffer if deficiencies are found, and this could cause a decline in the market price of our stock. Irrespective of compliance with Section 404, any failure of our internal control over financial reporting could have a material adverse effect on our stated operating results and harm our reputation. If we are unable to implement these requirements effectively or efficiently, it could harm our operations, financial reporting, or financial results and could result in an adverse opinion on our internal control over financial reporting from our independent registered public accounting firm. Because of the inherent limitations in all control systems, no evaluation of controls can provide absolute assurance that misstatements due to error or fraud will not occur or that all control issues and instances of fraud will be detected.

We cannot be certain that we will be successful in preparing adequate disclosures when we are no longer able to utilize certain modified disclosure requirements permitted for an emerging growth company or a smaller reporting company within the meaning of the Securities Act.

We ceased to be an emerging growth company in 2019. Additionally, after the filing of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2019, we will no longer qualify to use the smaller reporting company designation. As an emerging growth company, we were able to take advantage of exemptions from various reporting requirements applicable to other public companies including, but not limited to, not being required to have our independent registered public accounting firm audit our internal controls over financial reporting under Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in our periodic reports and proxy statements, and exemptions from the requirements of holding a nonbinding advisory vote on executive compensation and stockholder approval of any golden parachute payments not previously approved. Similar to emerging growth company status, the smaller reporting company designation allowed us to maintain reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in periodic reports and proxy statements and certain other reduced disclosure obligations in our SEC filings.

As a public company without the emerging growth company status or smaller reporting company designation, we will be required to increase our disclosures in periodic reports, proxy statements and other SEC filings compared to our historical filings. These increased disclosure standards may place a burden on our financial and management resources. If our additional disclosures in future filings are perceived as insufficient or inadequate by investors or regulatory authorities, the market price of our stock could decline, and we could be subject to actions by stockholders or regulatory authorities.

Our stock price could decline due to the large number of outstanding shares of our common stock eligible for future sale.

Sales of substantial amounts of our common stock in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, could cause the market price of our common stock to decline. These sales could also make it more difficult for us to sell equity or equity-related securities in the future at a time and price that we deem appropriate.

As of December 31, 2019, we had 123.1 million outstanding shares of common stock. These shares may be sold in the public market in the United States, subject to prior registration in the United States, if required, or reliance upon an exemption from U.S. registration, including, in the case of shares held by affiliates or control persons, compliance with the volume restrictions of Rule 144.

In addition, we have granted and expect to continue to grant equity awards to our directors and employees as additional compensation in an effort to align their interests with those of our stockholders. Approximately 2.7 million shares of our common stock are reserved for future issuance under our Long-Term Incentive Plan, and these shares will issue, vest and be immediately tradable without restriction on the date that our Sponsor and its affiliates achieve specified returns on their invested capital.

Further, equity awards for 11.7 million shares of common stock remained outstanding as of December 31, 2019, with 2.0 million of those shares being vested and exercisable as of December 31, 2019. Additionally, “sell-to-cover” transactions are utilized in connection with the vesting and settlement of equity awards that are granted to our employees so that shares of our common stock are sold on behalf of our employees in an amount sufficient to cover the tax withholding obligations associated with these awards. As a result of these transactions, a significant number of shares of our stock may be sold over a limited time period in connection with significant vesting events.

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Moreover, in connection with the completion of the merger of Vivint and Mosaic Acquisition Corp. on January 17, 2020, certain holders of Class A Units and Class B Units of 313 Acquisition LLC, including David Bywater, David D’Alessandro and Todd Pedersen but excluding our Sponsor, had or will have their units redeemed in exchange for a number of shares of our common stock and Vivint’s common stock or for tracking units redeemable for such shares over a vesting period. The approximately 4.7 million shares of our common stock distributed in connection with completion of the merger and the number of shares of our common stock that will be distributed during the vesting period of the tracking units may be freely sold in the public market in the United States subject to the requirements of Rule 144. The exact number of shares distributed upon redemption of the tracking units was determined based on the ratio of the value of our common stock and Vivint’s common stock on January 17, 2020.

As of December 31, 2019, stockholders owning an aggregate of 75.4 million shares of our common stock were entitled, under contracts providing for registration rights, to require us to register shares of our common stock owned by them for public sale in the United States, subject to the restrictions of Rule 144. In October 2014, we filed a registration statement on Form S-8 to register 22.9 million shares previously issued or reserved for future issuance under our equity compensation plans and agreements, and we registered an additional 12.9 million shares in March 2017. Under these registration statements, subject to the satisfaction of applicable vesting periods, the shares of common stock issued upon exercise of outstanding options and vested restricted stock units will be available for immediate resale in the United States in the open market. Sales of our common stock as restrictions end or pursuant to registration rights may make it more difficult for us to sell equity securities in the future at a time and at a price that we deem appropriate. These sales also could cause our stock price to fall and make it more difficult for investors to sell shares of our common stock.

Our Sponsor and its affiliates control us, and their interests may conflict with ours or investors’ in the future.

As of December 31, 2019, 313 Acquisition LLC, which is controlled by our Sponsor and its affiliates, beneficially owned approximately 60% of our common stock. Moreover, under our organizational documents and the stockholders agreement with 313 Acquisition LLC, for so long as our existing owners and their affiliates retain significant ownership of us, we will agree to nominate to our board individuals designated by our Sponsor, whom we refer to as the Sponsor directors. In addition, for so long as 313 Acquisition LLC continues to own shares representing a majority of the total voting power, we will agree to nominate to our board individuals appointed by Summit Partners and Todd Pedersen. Even when our Sponsor and its affiliates and certain of its co-investors cease to own shares of our stock representing a majority of the total voting power, for so long as our Sponsor and its affiliates continue to own a significant percentage of our stock our Sponsor will still be able to significantly influence the composition of our board of directors and the approval of actions requiring stockholder approval. In addition, under the stockholders agreement, affiliates of our Sponsor will have consent rights with respect to certain actions involving our company, provided a certain aggregate ownership threshold is maintained collectively by our Sponsor and its affiliates, together with Summit Partners, Todd Pedersen and our former director Alex Dunn and their respective affiliates. Accordingly, for such period of time, our Sponsor and certain of its co-investors will have significant influence with respect to our management, business plans and policies, including the appointment and removal of our officers. In particular, for so long as our Sponsor and its affiliates continue to own a significant percentage of our stock, our Sponsor will be able to cause or prevent a change of control of our company or a change in the composition of our board of directors and could preclude any unsolicited acquisition of our company. The concentration of ownership could deprive investors of an opportunity to receive a premium for shares of common stock as part of a sale of our company and ultimately might affect the market price of our common stock.

Our Sponsor and its affiliates engage in a broad spectrum of activities, including investments in the energy sector. In the ordinary course of their business activities, our Sponsor and its affiliates may from time to time acquire and hold interests in businesses that compete directly or indirectly with us. For example, affiliates of our Sponsor regularly invest in utility companies and solar and renewable energy companies that may compete with us. Our certificate of incorporation provides that none of our Sponsor, any of its affiliates or any director who is not employed by us (including any non-employee director who serves as one of our officers in both his or her director and officer capacities) or his or her affiliates will have any duty to refrain from engaging, directly or indirectly, in the same business activities or similar business activities or lines of business in which we operate. Our Sponsor also may pursue acquisition opportunities that may be complementary to our business, and, as a result, those acquisition opportunities may not be available to us. In addition, our Sponsor may have an interest in pursuing acquisitions, divestitures and other transactions that, in its judgment, could enhance its investment, even though such transactions might involve risks to our other investors.

We expect that 313 Acquisition LLC will eventually cease to control us as a result of potential future equity offerings by 313 Acquisition LLC or us and other distributions by 313 Acquisition LLC of shares of our common stock, for example in connection with the merger of Vivint and Mosaic Acquisition Corp., as well as the vesting over time of our equity awards. If and when 313 Acquisition LLC ceases to control us, we will no longer be a “controlled company” under the corporate governance rules of the New York Stock Exchange, or NYSE, and will no longer be able to benefit from the related exemptions, and we may also become a more likely target of short-term activist investors whose interests may be different than those of our other stockholders.

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We have elected to take advantage of the “controlled company” exemption to the NYSE corporate governance rules, which could make our common stock less attractive to some investors or otherwise harm our stock price.

Because we qualify as a “controlled company” under the corporate governance rules for NYSE listed companies, we are not required to have a majority of our board of directors be independent, nor are we required to have a compensation committee or an independent nominating function. In light of our status as a controlled company, in the future we could elect not to have a majority of our board of directors be independent or not to have a compensation committee or nominating and governance committee. Accordingly, should the interests of 313 Acquisition LLC or our Sponsor differ from those of other stockholders, the other stockholders may not have the same protections afforded to stockholders of companies that are subject to all of the corporate governance rules for NYSE listed companies. Our status as a controlled company could make our common stock less attractive to some investors or otherwise harm our stock price.

If 313 Acquisition LLC were to sell, transfer or otherwise distribute an amount of its shares of our company such that neither it nor another company, individual or group would hold more than 50% of the voting power for the election of our directors, we would no longer be a controlled company. We intend to comply with all applicable NYSE rules if we cease to be a controlled company, however, we may have difficulties complying with NYSE rules relating to the composition of our board of directors, and there can be no assurance that we will be able to attract and retain the number of independent directors needed to comply with NYSE rules before the end of the phase-in period for compliance.

Provisions in our certificate of incorporation, bylaws, stockholders agreement and under Delaware law might discourage, delay or prevent a change of control of our company or changes in our management and, therefore, depress the trading price of our common stock.

Our certificate of incorporation, bylaws and stockholders agreement contain provisions that could depress the trading price of our common stock by discouraging, delaying or preventing a change of control of our company or changes in our management that the stockholders of our company may believe advantageous. These provisions include:

 

establishing a classified board of directors so that not all members of our board of directors are elected at one time;

 

authorizing “blank check” preferred stock that our board of directors could issue to increase the number of outstanding shares to discourage a takeover attempt;

 

limiting the ability of stockholders to call a special stockholder meeting;

 

limiting the ability of stockholders to act by written consent;

 

providing that the board of directors is expressly authorized to make, alter or repeal our bylaws;

 

establishing advance notice requirements for nominations for elections to our board of directors or for proposing matters that can be acted upon by stockholders at stockholder meetings;

 

requiring our Sponsor to consent to certain actions, as described under the section of our 2018 Proxy Statement captioned “Related Party Transactions—Agreements with Our Sponsor,” for so long as our Sponsor, Summit Partners, Todd Pedersen and our former director Alex Dunn or their respective affiliates collectively own, in the aggregate, at least 30% of our outstanding shares of common stock;

 

the removal of directors only for cause and only upon the affirmative vote of the holders of at least 66-2/3% in voting power of all the then-outstanding shares of stock of our company entitled to vote thereon, voting together as a single class, if Blackstone and its affiliates beneficially own, in the aggregate, less than 30% in voting power of the stock of our company entitled to vote generally in the election of directors; and

 

that certain provisions may be amended only by the affirmative vote of the holders of at least 66-2/3% in voting power of all the then-outstanding shares of stock of our company entitled to vote thereon, voting together as a single class, if Blackstone and its affiliates beneficially own, in the aggregate, less than 30% in voting power of the stock of our company entitled to vote generally in the election of directors.

If securities or industry analysts do not publish or cease publishing research or reports about us, our business or our market, or if they change their recommendations regarding our stock adversely, our stock price and trading volume could decline.

The trading market for our common stock will be influenced by the research and reports that industry or securities analysts may publish about us, our business, our market or our competitors. If any of the analysts who do now, or may in the future, cover us change their recommendation regarding our stock adversely, or provide more favorable relative recommendations about our competitors, our stock price would likely decline. If any analyst who may cover us were to cease coverage of our company or fail to regularly publish reports on us, we could lose visibility in the financial markets, which in turn could cause our stock price or trading volume to decline.


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Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments.

None.

Item 2. Properties.

Our corporate headquarters and executive offices are located in Lehi, Utah, where we lease approximately 150,000 square feet of office space under a lease that expires in 2031. Additionally, we entered into leases for approximately 32,000 square feet of office space in the newly constructed building adjacent to our corporate headquarters and 40,000 square feet in an existing office building in the same general vicinity as our corporate headquarters, both of which commence in 2020. We believe that our currently leased space is sufficient to meet our current needs and our anticipated growth.

Our other locations include leased warehouses and sales offices that range from approximately 1,000 to 30,000 square feet for terms ranging from one to nine years in the states in which we operate. We also have one short-term warehouse with approximately 160,000 square feet for our safe harbor inventory.

Item 3. Legal Proceedings.

For a list of our current legal proceedings, see Note 19—Commitments and Contingencies.

Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures.

Not applicable.

 

 

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PART II

 

 

Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.

Market Information

Our common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, or NYSE, under the symbol “VSLR.”

Holders of Record

As of March 1, 2020, we had 241 stockholders of record of our common stock. The actual number of stockholders is greater than this number of record holders and includes stockholders who are beneficial owners but whose shares are held in street name by brokers and other nominees. This number of holders of record also does not include stockholders whose shares may be held in trust by other entities.

Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities

None.

Issuer Purchase of Equity Securities

None.

Dividend Policy

We have never declared or paid any cash dividends on our common stock. We currently intend to retain any future earnings to fund our growth, and we do not anticipate declaring or paying any cash dividends in the foreseeable future. Additionally, the terms of one or more of our current debt instruments restrict our ability to pay cash dividends on our common stock. Any future determination to declare cash dividends will be made at the discretion of our board of directors, subject to applicable laws and provisions of our debt instruments and organizational documents, after taking into account our financial condition, results of operations, capital requirements, general business conditions and other factors that our board of directors may deem relevant.

Item 6. Selected Financial Data.

We are not required to provide the information required by this Item 6 as we are a smaller reporting company.

Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

Overview

You should read the following discussion together with our consolidated financial statements and the related notes included in Item 8 of this report. This discussion contains forward-looking statements about our business and operations. Our actual results may differ materially from those we currently anticipate as a result of the many factors, including those we describe under Item 1A “Risk Factors” and elsewhere in this report. See “Forward-Looking Statements.”

Business Overview

We offer distributed solar energy — electricity generated by a solar energy system installed at or near customers’ locations — to residential customers primarily through a customer-focused and neighborhood-driven direct-to-home sales model. We believe we are disrupting the traditional electricity market by satisfying customers’ demand for increased energy independence and less expensive, more socially responsible electricity generation. As a result, we primarily compete with traditional utilities in the markets we serve, and our strategy is to price the energy we sell below prevailing retail electricity rates. The price our customers pay to buy energy from us varies depending on the state where the customer is located, the impact of the local traditional utility, customer price sensitivity, the availability of incentives and rebates, the need to offer a compelling financial benefit and the price other solar energy companies charge in the region. We also compete with distributed solar energy system providers for solar energy system sales on the basis of price, service and availability of financing options.

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Our primary product offerings include the following:

 

Power Purchase Agreements. Under power purchase agreements, or PPAs, we charge customers a fee per kilowatt hour based on the electricity production of the solar energy system, which is billed monthly. PPAs typically have a term of 20 years and beginning in 2020, 25 years and are subject to an annual price escalator of 2.9%. Over the term of the PPA, we operate the system and agree to maintain it in good condition. Customers who buy energy from us under PPAs are covered by our workmanship warranty equal to the length of the term of these agreements.

 

Legal-form Leases. Under legal-form leases, or Solar Leases, we charge customers a fixed monthly payment to lease the solar energy system, which is based on a calculation that accounts for expected solar energy generation. Solar Leases typically have a term of 20 years and beginning in 2020, 25 years and are typically subject to an annual price escalator of 2.9%, though some markets offer Solar leases with no annual price escalator. We provide our Solar Lease customers a performance guarantee, under which we agree to refund certain payments to the customer if the solar energy system does not meet the guaranteed production level in the prior 12-month period. Over the term of the Solar Lease, we operate the system and agree to maintain it in good condition, and in some markets we offer to install a battery storage system along with the solar energy system. Customers who lease equipment from us under Solar Leases are covered by our workmanship warranty equal to the length of the term of these agreements.

 

Solar Energy System Sales. Under solar energy system sales, or System Sales, we offer our customers the option to purchase solar energy systems for cash or through third-party financing. The price for these contracts is determined as a function of the respective market rate and the size of the solar energy system to be installed. Customers can additionally contract with us for certain structural upgrades, smart home products, battery storage systems, electric vehicle charging stations, generators and other accessories in connection with the installation of a solar energy system based on the market where they are located. We believe System Sales are advantageous to us as they provide immediate access to cash.

Of our 233.1 megawatts installed in 2019, approximately 67% were installed under PPAs, 16% were installed under Solar Leases and 17% were installed under System Sales. We will continue to maximize the value of the solar energy systems we install as well as continue to evaluate pricing to optimize our use of capital based on market conditions and utility rates.

Our ability to offer long-term customer contracts depends in part on our ability to finance the installation of the solar energy systems by co-investing or entering into lease arrangements with fund investors who value the resulting customer receivables and investment tax credits, or ITCs, accelerated tax depreciation and other incentives related to the solar energy systems primarily through structured investments known as “tax equity.” Tax equity investments are generally structured as non-recourse project financings known as investment funds. In the context of the distributed solar energy market, tax equity investors make an upfront advance payment to a sponsor through an investment fund in exchange for a share of the tax attributes and cash flows emanating from an underlying portfolio of solar energy systems. In these investment funds, the U.S. federal tax attributes offset taxes that otherwise would have been payable on the investors’ other operations. The terms and conditions of each investment fund vary significantly by investor and by fund. We continue to negotiate with financial investors to create additional investment funds.

In general, our investment funds have adopted the partnership or inverted lease structures. Under partnership structures, we and our fund investors contribute cash into a partnership company. The partnership uses this cash to acquire solar energy systems developed by us and sells energy from such systems to customers or directly leases the solar energy systems to customers. Under our existing inverted lease structures, we and the fund investor set up a multi-tiered investment vehicle, composed of two partnership entities, that facilitates the pass through of the tax benefits to the fund investors. In this structure, we contribute solar energy systems to a lessor partnership entity in exchange for interests in the lessor partnership and the fund investors contribute cash to a lessee partnership in exchange for interests in the lessee partnership which in turn makes an investment in the lessor partnership entity in exchange for interests in the lessor partnership. The lessor partnership distributes the cash contributions received from the lessee partnership to our wholly owned subsidiary that contributed the projects to the lessor partnership. The lessor partnership leases the contributed solar energy systems to the lessee partnership under a master lease, and the lessee partnership pays the lessor partnership rent for those systems.

We have determined that we are the primary beneficiary in these partnership and inverted lease structures for accounting purposes. Accordingly, we consolidate the assets and liabilities and operating results of these partnerships in our consolidated financial statements. We recognize the fund investors’ share of the net assets of the investment funds as non-controlling interests and redeemable non-controlling interests in our consolidated balance sheets. These income or loss allocations, reflected on our consolidated statements of operations, may create significant volatility in our reported results of operations, including potentially changing net loss attributable to common stockholders from loss to income, or vice versa, from quarter to quarter.

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Recent Developments

Refer to Note 21—Subsequent Events for details on recent developments.

Key Operating Metrics

We regularly review a number of metrics, including the following key operating metrics, to evaluate our business, measure our performance, identify trends affecting our business, formulate financial projections and make strategic decisions. Some of our key operating metrics are estimates. These estimates are based on our management’s beliefs and assumptions and on information currently available to management. Although we believe that we have a reasonable basis for each of these estimates, these estimates are based on a combination of assumptions that may not prove to be accurate over time, particularly given that a number of them involve estimates of cash flows up to 30 years in the future. Underperformance of the solar energy systems, payment defaults by our customers, cancellation of signed contracts, competition from other distributed solar energy companies, development in the distributed solar energy market and the energy market more broadly, technical innovation or other factors described under the section of this report captioned “Risk Factors” could cause our actual results to differ materially from our calculations. Furthermore, while we believe we have calculated these key metrics in a manner consistent with those used by others in our industry, other companies may in fact calculate these metrics differently than we do now or in the future, which would reduce their usefulness as a comparative measure.

 

Solar energy system installations. Solar energy system installations represents the number of solar energy systems installed on customers’ premises. Cumulative solar energy system installations represents the aggregate number of solar energy systems that have been installed on customers’ premises. We track the number of solar energy system installations as of the end of a given period as an indicator of our historical growth and as an indicator of our rate of growth from period to period.

 

Megawatts installed. Megawatts installed represents the aggregate megawatt nameplate capacity of solar energy systems for which panels, inverters, and mounting and racking hardware have been installed on customer premises in the period. Cumulative megawatts installed represents the aggregate megawatt nameplate capacity of solar energy systems for which panels, inverters, and mounting and racking hardware have been installed on customer premises.

 

Estimated nominal contracted payments remaining. Estimated nominal contracted payments remaining equals the sum of the remaining cash payments that our customers are expected to pay over the term of their PPAs or Solar Leases with us for systems installed as of the measurement date. For a PPA, we multiply the contract price per kilowatt-hour by the estimated annual energy output of the associated solar energy system to determine the estimated nominal contracted payments. For a Solar Lease, we include the monthly fees and upfront fee, if any, as set forth in the lease.

 

Estimated gross retained value. Estimated gross retained value represents the net cash flows discounted at 6% that we expect to receive from customers pursuant to PPAs and Solar Leases plus the value of contracted SRECs net of estimated cash distributions to fund investors, debt associated with our forward flow facilities and estimated operating expenses for systems installed as of the measurement date.

 

Estimated gross retained value under energy contracts. Estimated gross retained value under energy contracts represents the estimated retained value from the solar energy systems during the typical 20-year term of our PPAs and Solar Leases plus the value of contracted solar renewable energy certificates, or SRECs.

 

Estimated gross retained value of renewal. Estimated gross retained value of renewal represents the estimated retained value associated with an assumed 10-year renewal term following the expiration of the initial PPA or Solar Lease term. To calculate estimated gross retained value of renewal, we assume all PPAs and Solar Leases are renewed at 90% of the contractual price in effect at the expiration of the initial term.

 

Estimated gross retained value per watt. Estimated gross retained value per watt is calculated by dividing the estimated gross retained value as of the measurement date by the aggregate nameplate capacity of solar energy systems under PPAs and Solar Leases that have been installed as of such date, and is subject to the same assumptions and uncertainties as estimated gross retained value.

40


 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

Solar energy system installations

 

33,693

 

 

 

27,768

 

Megawatts installed

 

233.1

 

 

 

196.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As of December 31,

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

Cumulative solar energy system installations

 

188,291

 

 

 

154,598

 

Cumulative megawatts installed

 

1,294.0

 

 

 

1,060.9

 

Estimated nominal contracted payments remaining (in millions)

$

4,434.0

 

 

$

3,638.1

 

Estimated gross retained value under energy contracts (in millions)

$

1,690.0

 

 

$

1,517.0

 

Estimated gross retained value of renewal (in millions)

$

600.7

 

 

$

479.7

 

Estimated gross retained value (in millions)

$

2,290.7

 

 

$

1,996.7

 

Estimated gross retained value per watt

$

1.98

 

 

$

2.06

 

Factors Affecting Our Performance

Financing Availability

Our future success depends in part on our ability to raise capital from third-party investors on competitive terms to help finance the deployment of our residential solar energy systems under long-term customer contracts. There are a limited number of potential investment fund investors and the competition for this investment capital is intense. The principal tax credit on which fund investors in our industry rely is the ITC. The amount of the ITC is equal to 30% of the basis of eligible solar property as long as construction of the solar energy system began by December 31, 2019. By statute, the ITC percentage decreases to 26% of the basis of a solar energy system for systems where construction begins in 2020, 22% for systems where construction begins in 2021 and 10% for systems where construction begins after 2021 or, regardless of when construction begins, where the solar energy system is placed into service after 2023. We intend to create additional investment funds with financial investors and corporate investors. We also use debt, equity or other financing strategies to fund our operations, including our obligations to make contributions to investment funds. Such other financing strategies may increase our cost of capital. Our future success also depends in part on our ability to partner with third-parties who administer solar loan products. We require significant capital to operate our business and will require additional financing to meet our planned growth objectives. If we are unable to raise additional capital or generate sufficient cash flows in our operations, our growth objectives may not be achieved, and we may be unable to meet the growth expectations of investors in our common stock.

Incentives; Net Metering

Our cost of capital, the price we can charge for electricity, the cost of our systems and the demand for residential distributed solar energy is impacted by a number of federal, state and local government incentives and regulations, including: tax credits, particularly the ITC; tax abatements; rebate programs; net metering; and SRECs. These programs have on occasion been challenged by incumbent utilities and questioned by those in government and others arguing for less governmental spending and involvement in the energy market. In recent years, net metering programs have been subject to regulatory scrutiny or legislative proposals in several states in which we operate. Many utilities have proposed and are proposing new and varied revisions to their net metering programs, with such proposals ultimately determined by the state public utilities commissions. These revisions include, but are not limited to, capping the numbers of customers that can elect net metering within a utility service territory, imposing new fixed charges for grid service or interconnection, reducing the retail rate value of the net metered generation, and imposing consumer protection requirements on solar companies.

Customer Acquisition Costs

Customer acquisition costs primarily consist of sales commissions to our direct-to-home sales professionals. There is significant competition for sales talent in our industry, and from time to time we may need to adjust our compensation model to respond to this competition. These adjustments have caused and may continue to cause our customer acquisition costs to increase and could otherwise adversely impact our operating results and financial performance.

Presently, the direct-to-home sales model results in high customer acquisition costs. In order to successfully grow in a strategic and profitable manner, we may need to expand into new sales channels to reduce customer acquisition costs. If we fail to expand effectively into new sales channels and reduce our customer acquisition costs, our operating results and growth prospects could be adversely affected. We may also incur significant costs to expand into new sales channels and may not be able to compete successfully with companies with a historical presence in such channels.

41


System Equipment Costs

We purchase solar panels, inverters and other system components from a limited number of suppliers. Substantially all of our solar panels and inverters are produced outside of the United States. Various tariffs have been imposed by the U.S. government in recent years on materials that we use to construct our solar energy systems. These tariffs may lead to increases in our system equipment costs. See “—Suppliers” within “Item 1. Business” for further discussion of these tariffs. Despite recent increases in solar panel prices due to the tariffs imposed since February 2018 and a general decrease in supply in the solar panel market, industry experts indicate that solar panel and raw material prices are expected to decline in the future. It is possible, however, that prices will not decline at the same rate as they have over the past several years or that prices may increase. In addition, growth in the solar industry in the United States and abroad and the resulting increase in demand for solar panels and the raw materials necessary to manufacture them may put upward pressure on prices.

Sustainable Growth

We operate in states whose utility prices, sun exposure, climate conditions and regulatory policies provide for the most compelling market for distributed solar energy. Utility rates, availability of state incentives, other state, regional and local regulations, sun exposure and weather conditions, which can impact sales, installation and system productivity, vary by market. For example, markets in California typically have higher utility rates than markets in the Eastern United States. As a result, systems in California typically have a higher retained value than systems in the Eastern United States. However, we are entitled to receive SRECs and other state incentives in many Eastern states that are not available in the Western United States. As a result, our financial and operating results will be affected by the geographic mix of the systems we install. Competition also varies by market and we may compete with national and local solar companies that offer products similar to ours. We plan to enlarge our addressable market by expanding our presence to new states on a measured basis. Our investments into new sales channels such as the homebuilder and retail channels are designed to allow us to expand into additional markets.

Sales Channels

We place our integrated solar energy systems through a sales organization that primarily uses a direct-to-home sales model. We believe that a direct, customer-facing sales model is important throughout our sales process to maximize our sales success and customer experience. The members of our sales force typically reside and work within the market they support. We also generate sales through customer referrals. Customer referrals increase in relation to our penetration in a market and become an increasingly effective way to market our solar energy systems shortly after market entry. In addition to direct sales, we sell to customers through our inside sales team and through various sales dealer agreements into which we have entered. We also sell to customers through the homebuilder and retail distribution channels. We continue to explore opportunities to sell solar energy systems to customers through a number of other distribution channels, including relationships with real estate management companies, large construction, electrical and roofing companies and other third parties that have access to large numbers of potential solar customers, as well as direct to consumers through online sales.

Seasonality

We experience seasonal fluctuations in our operations. For example, the amount of revenue we recognize in a given period from PPAs is dependent in part on the amount of energy generated by solar energy systems under such contracts. As a result, customer agreements and incentives revenue is impacted by seasonally shorter daylight hours in winter months. In addition, our ability to install solar energy systems is impacted by weather. For example, we have limited ability to install solar energy systems during the winter months in the Northeastern United States and other areas where winter weather is impactful. Such delays can impact the timing of when we can install and begin to generate revenue from solar energy systems. However, the true extent of these fluctuations may have been masked by our historical growth rates and thus may not be readily apparent from our historical operating results and may be difficult to predict. As such, our historical operating results may not be indicative of future performance.

Components of Results of Operations

Revenue

Customer Agreements and Incentives.     We recognize revenue for our PPAs based on the actual amount of power generated at rates specified under the contracts. We recognize revenue for our Solar Leases, which include performance guarantees, on a straight-line basis over the lease term. We expect customer agreements and incentives revenue to increase in 2020 compared to 2019.

We apply for and receive SRECs in certain jurisdictions for power generated by solar energy systems we have installed. We generally recognize revenue related to the sale of SRECs upon delivery to the buyer. The market for SRECs is extremely volatile and sellers are often able to obtain better unit pricing by selling a large quantity of SRECs. As a result, we may sell SRECs infrequently, at opportune times and in large quantities and the timing and volume of our SREC sales may lead to fluctuations in our quarterly results.

42


Solar Energy System and Product Sales.     Solar energy system and product sales primarily includes revenue from System Sales. Revenue for System Sales is recognized when systems are interconnected to local power grids and granted permission to operate, assuming all other revenue recognition criteria are met. We expect revenue from System Sales to increase in 2020 compared to 2019. Revenue related to the sale of photovoltaic installation products is recognized at the time of product shipment to the customer, assuming the remaining revenue recognition criteria have been met. Revenue mix will likely vary on a period-to-period basis as a result of regulatory, competitive and other local market conditions.

The following table sets forth our revenue by major product (in thousands):

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

Revenue:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Customer agreements and other incentives

$

168,896

 

 

$

130,176

 

SREC sales

 

48,435

 

 

 

43,890

 

Total customer agreements and incentives

 

217,331

 

 

 

174,066

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

System sales

 

121,177

 

 

 

113,308

 

Photovoltaic installation products

 

2,533

 

 

 

2,947

 

Total solar energy system and product sales

 

123,710

 

 

 

116,255

 

Total revenue

$

341,041

 

 

$

290,321

 

Operating Expenses

Cost of Revenue—Customer Agreements and Incentives.     Cost of revenue—customer agreements and incentives includes the depreciation of the cost of solar energy systems under long-term customer contracts, which are depreciated for accounting purposes over 30 years and in 2018 included the amortization of related initial direct costs, which were being amortized over the terms of the long-term customer contracts. It also includes allocated indirect material and labor costs related to the processing; account creation; design; installation; interconnection and servicing of solar energy systems that are not capitalized, such as personnel costs not directly associated to a solar energy system installation; warehouse rent and utilities; and fleet vehicle executory costs. The cost of customer agreements and incentives also includes allocated facilities and information technology costs. The cost of revenue for the sales of SRECs is limited to broker fees which are paid in connection with certain SREC transactions. In 2020, we expect the cost of customer agreements and incentives revenue will increase in absolute dollars compared to 2019.

Cost of Revenue—Solar Energy System and Product Sales.     Cost of revenue—solar energy system and product sales consists of direct and allocated indirect material and labor costs and overhead costs for System Sales, photovoltaic installation products and structural upgrades and in 2018 included related costs to obtain contracts associated with System Sales. Indirect material and labor costs are ratably allocated to System Sales and include costs related to the processing; account creation; design; installation; interconnection and servicing of solar energy systems, such as personnel costs not directly associated to a solar energy system installation; warehouse rent and utilities; and fleet vehicle executory costs. The cost of solar energy system and product sales also includes allocated facilities and information technology costs. Costs of solar energy system sales are recognized in conjunction with the related revenue upon the solar energy system passing an inspection by the responsible governmental department after completion of system installation and interconnection to the power grid, assuming all other revenue recognition criteria are met. In 2020, we expect the cost of solar energy system and product sales to increase in absolute dollars compared to 2019.

Sales and Marketing.     Sales and marketing expenses include personnel costs, such as salaries, benefits, bonuses and stock-based compensation for our corporate sales and marketing employees, certain non-capitalizable commission payments and, beginning in 2019, the amortization of capitalized incremental costs to obtain customer contracts. Sales and marketing expenses also include advertising, promotional and other marketing-related expenses; allocated facilities and information technology costs; travel; professional services and costs related to pre-installation sales activities. In 2020, we expect sales and marketing costs will increase in absolute dollars compared to 2019.

Research and Development.     Research and development expense is composed primarily of salaries and benefits and other costs related to the development of photovoltaic installation products and other solar technologies. Research and development costs are charged to expense when incurred. In 2020, we expect research and development costs will remain relatively consistent in absolute dollars compared to 2019.

General and Administrative.     General and administrative expenses include personnel costs, such as salaries, bonuses and stock-based compensation related to our general and administrative personnel; professional fees related to legal, human resources, accounting and structured finance services; travel; and allocated facilities and information technology costs. In 2020, we expect that general and administrative expenses will remain relatively consistent in absolute dollars compared to 2019.

43


Non-Operating Expenses

Interest Expense.     Interest expense primarily consists of the interest charges associated with our indebtedness including the amortization of debt issuance costs and the interest component of finance lease obligations. In 2020, we expect our interest expense to increase in absolute dollars compared to 2019 as we have incurred additional indebtedness. Additionally, our debt facilities accrue interest at floating rates and increases in the floating rates would result in higher interest expense.

Other Expense (Income), net.     Other expense (income), net primarily consists of changes in fair value for our interest rate swaps not designated as hedges.

Income Tax Expense.     All of our business is conducted in the United States, and therefore income tax expense consists of current and deferred income taxes incurred in U.S federal, state and local jurisdictions.

Net Loss Attributable to Stockholders

We determine the net loss attributable to common stockholders by deducting from net loss the net loss attributable to non-controlling interests and redeemable non-controlling interests, which represents the investment fund investors’ allocable share in the results of operations of the investment funds that we consolidate.

We have determined that the legal provisions in the contractual arrangements of the investment funds in which there is a non-controlling interest represent substantive profit-sharing arrangements, where the allocation to the partners differs from the stated ownership percentages. We have further determined that the appropriate methodology for attributing income and loss to the non-controlling interests and redeemable non-controlling interests each period is a balance sheet approach using the hypothetical liquidation at book value, or HLBV, method. Under the HLBV method, the amounts of income and loss attributed to the non-controlling interests and redeemable non-controlling interests in the consolidated statements of operations reflect changes in the amounts the fund investors would hypothetically receive at each balance sheet date under the liquidation provisions of the contractual agreements of these funds, assuming the net assets of the respective investment funds were liquidated at recorded amounts determined in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP. The fund investors’ interest in the results of operations of these investment funds is determined as the difference in the fund investors’ claim under the HLBV method at the start and end of each reporting period, after taking into account any capital transactions between the fund and the fund investors. For all of our investment funds in which we have an equity interest, the application of HLBV is performed consistently. However, the results of that application and its impact on the income or loss allocated between us and the non-controlling interests and redeemable non-controlling interests depend on the respective funds’ specific contractual liquidation provisions. HLBV results are generally affected by, among other factors, the tax attributes allocated to the fund investors including tax bonus depreciation and ITCs, the amount of preferred returns that have been paid to the fund investors by the investment funds, and the allocation of taxable income or losses in a liquidation scenario. As of December 31, 2019, we had one operational investment fund that did not utilize the HLBV method to allocate gains and losses, as we own 100% of the equity of that fund and there is no non-controlling interest attributable to a fund investor.

The contractual liquidation provisions of our existing funds in which there is a non-controlling interest provide that the allocation percentages between us and the investor change, or “flip,” under certain circumstances. Prior to the point at which the allocation percentage flips, the investor is entitled to receive a contractually agreed upon allocation of the value generated by the solar energy systems. The allocation of cash payments received from customers may differ from the allocation of other tax benefits. Afterwards, we are entitled to receive the majority of the value generated by the solar energy systems. The difference between our current inverted lease structures and our current partnership structures that drives a significant impact on our results from the application of the HLBV method is how the flip point is determined. Additionally, we have the option to buy out the non-controlling interest in each fund after the flip. The purchase price of the non-controlling interest is defined in each fund’s respective fund agreements. The purchase price paid to buy out the non-controlling interest can have a significant impact on the HLBV calculation if the purchase price is materially different than the carrying value of the non-controlling interest.

The HLBV calculation is also impacted by the difference between the cash received by us from the investment funds and the carrying value of the solar energy systems contributed to the investment funds. The purchase price paid for solar energy systems by an investment fund is based on the fair market value, as determined by an independent appraiser. As we consolidate both the subsidiary that develops the solar energy systems and the investment fund, the sales of the solar energy systems are considered transactions under common control and are therefore reflected at their historical cost, or their carryover basis. Cash received in excess of the installed purchased solar energy systems’ carryover basis is treated as deemed distributions from the investment fund to us. In most cases, any excess of the purchase price over the carryover basis of the solar energy systems would result in allocations of income to us.

44


A portion of the solar energy systems purchased by, or contributed to, an investment fund are not installed at the time of purchase or contribution and therefore do not have any carryover basis allocated to them. Our wholly owned subsidiary has an obligation to purchase, install and provide the solar energy system equipment to an investment fund for any in-progress projects that were previously purchased by such fund. If our wholly owned subsidiary does not ultimately provide the investment fund with the solar energy systems that it purchased, it is required to refund the purchase price to the investment fund. In these specific cases, we determined that the portion of the cash purchase price paid by an investment fund that relates to in-progress projects should be recorded as a receivable by the investment fund, representing the investment fund’s right to receive solar panels and related equipment for solar energy systems that are installed after the project is purchased by the investment fund. Given that our subsidiary controls the investment fund, we have accounted for the receivable balance as a reduction in the investment fund’s members’ equity in accordance with GAAP. Initially this may result in allocations of losses amongst the partners, as the GAAP equity balance is less than the tax capital account. The allocations of such losses amongst the partners follow the contractual liquidation provisions of the partnership agreements. When such solar energy systems are subsequently installed, the systems are recorded at their carryover basis as a common control transaction and the receivable balance is eliminated. With the elimination of the receivable, the investment fund’s member’s equity is increased to the extent of the carrying amount of the assets contributed, which results in the reversal of a portion of the prior allocation of losses. In most cases, the reversal of such losses occurs within a short period of time, approximately three to six months. As discussed above, the difference between the receivable balance eliminated and the carryover basis of the installed solar energy systems is treated as deemed distributions from the investment fund to us, and as a result, that portion of the prior allocation of losses is not reversed over time.

We classify certain non-controlling interests with redemption features that are not solely within our control outside of permanent equity. The fair values of these redemption features are calculated by discounting the cash flows subsequent to the expected flip date of the respective investment funds. When the redemption value of our redeemable non-controlling interests exceeds their carrying value after attribution of income or loss under the HLBV method in any period, we make an additional attribution of income to our redeemable non-controlling interests such that their carrying value at least equals the redemption value.

Results of Operations

The results of operations presented below should be reviewed in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements and related notes included elsewhere in this report.

The following table sets forth selected consolidated statements of operations data for each of the periods indicated.

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

 

(In thousands)

 

Revenue:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Customer agreements and incentives

$

217,331

 

 

$

174,066

 

Solar energy system and product sales

 

123,710

 

 

 

116,255

 

Total revenue

 

341,041

 

 

 

290,321

 

Cost of revenue:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost of revenue—customer agreements and incentives

 

186,325

 

 

 

164,920

 

Cost of revenue—solar energy system and product sales

 

72,221

 

 

 

83,375

 

Total cost of revenue

 

258,546

 

 

 

248,295

 

Gross profit

 

82,495

 

 

 

42,026

 

Operating expenses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sales and marketing

 

151,194

 

 

 

58,950

 

Research and development

 

2,043

 

 

 

1,867

 

General and administrative

 

117,822

 

 

 

93,703

 

Total operating expenses

 

271,059

 

 

 

154,520

 

Loss from operations

 

(188,564

)

 

 

(112,494

)

Interest expense, net

 

82,323

 

 

 

65,308

 

Other expense (income), net

 

1,434

 

 

 

(4,538

)

Loss before income taxes

 

(272,321

)

 

 

(173,264

)

Income tax expense

 

150,999

 

 

 

106,299

 

Net loss

 

(423,320

)

 

 

(279,563

)

Net loss attributable to non-controlling interests and redeemable

   non-controlling interests

 

(321,145

)

 

 

(263,971

)

Net loss attributable to common stockholders

$

(102,175

)

 

$

(15,592

)

45


Comparison of Years Ended December 31, 2019 and 2018

Revenue

 

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

$ Change

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

 

2019 from 2018

 

 

(In thousands)

 

Revenue:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Customer agreements and incentives

$

217,331

 

 

$

174,066

 

 

$

43,265

 

Solar energy system and product sales

 

123,710

 

 

 

116,255

 

 

 

7,455

 

Total revenue

$

341,041

 

 

$

290,321

 

 

$

50,720

 

Customer Agreements and Incentives. The $43.3 million increase was due in part to a $38.1 million increase in customer agreement revenue as the total megawatts of solar energy systems placed in service under these long-term customer contracts increased by 22% and a $4.5 million increase in SREC revenue.

Solar Energy System and Product Sales. The $7.5 million increase was primarily due to an increase in solar energy systems placed in service under System Sales compared to 2018, primarily resulting from higher volumes which were driven in part by an increase in volume related to the homebuilder program.

Cost of Revenue

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

$ Change

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

 

2019 from 2018

 

 

(In thousands)

 

Cost of revenue:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cost of revenue—customer agreements and incentives

$

186,325

 

 

$

164,920

 

 

$

21,405

 

Cost of revenue—solar energy system and product sales

 

72,221

 

 

 

83,375

 

 

 

(11,154

)

Total cost of revenue

$

258,546

 

 

$

248,295

 

 

$

10,251

 

Cost of Revenue—Customer Agreements and Incentives. The $21.4 million increase was due in part to a $13.5 million increase in compensation and benefits for the installation and operations organizations driven by an increase in headcount and other associated costs to accommodate a 19% increase in installation volumes compared to 2018, a $10.2 million increase related to growth in the post-installation maintenance organization to accommodate the increase in the number of solar energy systems placed in service, a $7.7 million increase in depreciation of solar energy system equipment costs due to the increase in the number of solar energy systems placed in service and a $3.6 million increase in other operational costs such as permitting and other filing and incentive fees related to installation volume growth. Additionally, as part of our annual impairment test for long-lived assets, we determined that certain solar energy systems were impaired and required any remaining net asset value to be written off, resulting in charges of approximately $3.4 million to cost of revenue—customer agreements and incentives. These increases were partially offset by a $17.5 million decrease in the amortization of initial direct costs resulting from these costs being recorded in this line item during 2018 while similar costs are recorded in sales and marketing expense beginning in 2019 as a result of adopting ASU 2016-02, Leases (Topic 842), or Topic 842.

Cost of Revenue—Solar Energy System and Product Sales. The $11.2 million decrease is primarily attributable to a $19.1 million decrease in costs to obtain contracts resulting from these costs being recorded in this line item during 2018 while similar costs are recorded in sales and marketing expense beginning in 2019 as a result of adopting Topic 842. This decrease was partially offset by a $7.7 million increase in costs related to new homebuilder program volume and an increase in structural and electrical upgrade services driven by the increase in System Sales volume.

Operating Expenses

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

$ Change

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

 

2019 from 2018

 

 

(In thousands)

 

Operating expenses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sales and marketing

$

151,194

 

 

$

58,950

 

 

$

92,244

 

Research and development

 

2,043

 

 

 

1,867

 

 

 

176

 

General and administrative

 

117,822

 

 

 

93,703

 

 

 

24,119

 

Total operating expenses

$

271,059

 

 

$

154,520

 

 

$

116,539

 

46


Sales and Marketing. The $92.2 million increase was primarily due to $52.4 million in costs to obtain contracts and amortization of previously capitalized costs to obtain contracts being included in this line item for the current period as a result of adopting Topic 842 while these costs were included in cost of revenue during 2018, a $31.2 million increase in compensation and benefits due in part to an increase in inside sales headcount to support new sales channels and an increase in non-capitalized residual commission payments, including a one-time $5.9 million accrual in the third quarter of 2019 related to a proposed settlement of the February 2018 legal proceeding, a $3.4 million increase in marketing and lead generation activities, a $2.0 million increase in allocated facility and information technology expenses and a $1.8 million increase in professional services related to our retail sales channel, including one-time fees of $1.3 million. Additionally, as part of our annual impairment test for long-lived assets, we determined that certain solar energy systems were impaired and required any remaining net costs to obtain the contract to be written off, resulting in charges of approximately $0.6 million to sales and marketing.

General and Administrative. The $24.1 million increase was primarily due to an $11.7 million increase in legal settlement costs, a $4.9 million increase in compensation and benefits, including stock-based compensation, a $3.9 million increase in professional fees and a $2.7 million increase in insurance costs. See Note 19—Commitments and Contingencies for additional details on the legal settlement costs.

Non-Operating Expenses

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

$ Change

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

 

2019 from 2018

 

 

(In thousands)

 

Interest expense, net

$

82,323

 

 

$

65,308

 

 

$

17,015

 

Other expense (income), net

 

1,434

 

 

 

(4,538

)

 

 

5,972

 

Interest Expense. Interest expense increased $17.0 million primarily due to a $7.8 million increase in interest expense resulting from additional borrowings year over year, a $6.8 million reduction in interest expense in the same period in 2018 due to one-time items related to the refinancing and termination of debt facilities and a $2.5 million increase related to deferred financing costs recognized in interest expense as a result of terminating the Aggregation Facility. See Note 11—Debt Obligations for details about the termination of the Aggregation Facility.

Other Expense (Income), net. The $6.0 million change from other income to other expense was primarily due to a $3.9 million change in the fair value of our derivative financial instruments and a $2.1 million payment received in 2018 as an initial distribution to us in one of our legal proceedings.

Income Taxes

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

$ Change

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

 

2019 from 2018

 

 

(In thousands)

 

Income tax expense

$

150,999

 

 

$

106,299

 

 

$

44,700

 

The $44.7 million increase to income tax expense was primarily attributable to a $35.0 million additional expense as a result of increased tax gains recognized on the sale of solar energy systems to investment funds, and a $12.0 million tax-effected increase in non-controlling interests and redeemable non-controlling interests. These increases in income tax expense were partially offset by a tax-effected $1.3 million reduced loss before income taxes.

Net Loss Attributable to Non-Controlling Interests and Redeemable Non-Controlling Interests

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

$ Change

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

 

2019 from 2018

 

 

(In thousands)

 

Net loss attributable to non-controlling interests and redeemable

   non-controlling interests

$

(321,145

)

 

$

(263,971

)

 

$

(57,174

)

Net loss attributable to non-controlling interests and redeemable non-controlling interests was allocated using the HLBV method. Generally, gains and losses that are allocated to the fund investors relate to hypothetical liquidation gains and losses resulting from differences between the net assets of the investment fund and the partners’ respective tax capital accounts in the investment fund. Losses allocated to the fund investors are generally derived from the receipt of ITCs and tax depreciation under Internal Revenue Code Section 168. These tax benefits are primarily allocated to the investors and reduce the fund investors’ tax capital account.

47


Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates

Our discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations are based upon our consolidated financial statements, which have been prepared in accordance with GAAP. GAAP requires us to make estimates and judgments that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenue and expenses, cash flows and related footnote disclosures. We base our estimates on historical experience and on various other assumptions that we believe to be reasonable under the circumstances. Actual results may differ from these estimates. Our future consolidated financial statements will be affected to the extent that our actual results materially differ from these estimates.

We believe that the assumptions and estimates associated with ITCs, revenue recognition, solar energy systems, net, the impairment analysis of long-lived assets, stock-based compensation, the provision for income taxes, the valuation of derivative financial instruments, the recognition and measurement of loss contingencies, and non-controlling interests and redeemable non-controlling interests have the greatest potential impact on our consolidated financial statements. Therefore, we consider these to be our critical accounting policies and estimates.

Investment Tax Credits

We receive ITCs under Section 48(a) of the Internal Revenue Code. The amount of the ITC is equal to 30% of the basis of eligible solar property as long as construction of the solar energy system began by December 31, 2019. We receive minimal allocations of ITCs for solar energy systems placed in our investment funds as the majority of such credits are allocated to the fund investors. Some of our investment funds obligate us to make certain fund investors whole for losses that the investors may suffer in certain limited circumstances resulting from the disallowance or recapture of ITCs as a result of the Internal Revenue Service’s, or the IRS, assessment of the fair value of such systems. We have concluded that the likelihood of a recapture event related to these assessments is remote and consequently have not recorded any liability in the consolidated financial statements for any potential recapture exposure. However, several recent investment funds and debt obligations have required us to prepay insurance premiums to cover the risk of ITC recapture. We amortize this prepaid insurance expense over the ITC recapture period. We receive all ITCs for solar energy systems that are not sold to customers or placed in our investment funds. We account for our ITCs as a reduction of income tax expense in the year in which the credits arise.

Revenue Recognition

In accordance with Accounting Standards Codification, or ASC, 606: Revenue from Contracts with Customers, we recognize revenue according to the following steps: (1) identification of the contract with a customer, (2) identification of the performance obligations in the contract, (3) determination of the transaction price, (4) allocation of the transaction price to the performance obligations in the contract and (5) recognition of revenue when, or as, we satisfy a performance obligation. Our revenue is composed of customer agreements and incentives, and solar energy system and product sales as captioned in the consolidated statements of operations. Customer agreements and incentives revenue includes PPA and Solar Lease revenue and SREC sales. Solar energy system and product sales revenue includes System Sales, which may include structural upgrades in sales contracts and SREC sales related to sold systems, and the sale of photovoltaic installation products. Revenue is recorded net of any sales tax collected.

Customer Agreements and Incentives Revenue

We enter into PPAs with residential customers under which the customer agrees to purchase all of the power generated by the solar energy system for the term of the contract, which is most commonly 20 years. The agreement includes a fixed price per kilowatt hour with a fixed annual price escalation percentage. Customers have not historically been charged for installation or activation of the solar energy system. For all PPAs, we assess the probability of collectability on a customer-by-customer basis through a credit review process that evaluates their financial condition and ability to pay. PPA revenue is recognized based on the actual amount of power generated at rates specified under the contracts.

We also offer solar energy systems to customers pursuant to Solar Leases in certain markets. The customer agreements are structured as Solar Leases due to local regulations that can be read to prohibit the sale of electricity pursuant to the our standard PPA. Pursuant to Solar Leases, the customers’ monthly payments are a pre-determined amount calculated based on the expected solar energy generation by the system and typically have included an annual fixed percentage price escalation over the period of the contracts, which is most commonly 20 years, though some markets offer Solar Leases with no annual price escalation. Revenue from Solar Leases is recognized on a straight-line basis over the contractual term. We record a straight-line Solar Lease asset in other non-current assets, net, which represents revenue recognized in advance of customer payments. We provide our Solar Lease customers a performance guarantee, under which we agree to refund certain payments at the end of each year to the customer if the solar energy system does not meet a guaranteed production level in the prior 12-month period. The guaranteed production levels have varying terms. Solar energy performance guarantees are recognized as contra-revenue in the period in which the liabilities are recorded.

48


At times we make nominal cash payments to customers in order to facilitate the finalization of long-term customer contracts and the installation of related solar energy systems. These sales incentives are deferred and recognized over the term of the contract as a reduction of revenue.

We apply for and receive SRECs in certain jurisdictions for power generated by solar energy systems we have installed. When SRECs are granted, we typically sell them to other companies directly, or to brokers, to assist them in meeting their own mandatory emission reduction or conservation requirements. We recognize revenue related to the sale of these certificates upon delivery, assuming the other revenue recognition criteria discussed above are met.

Solar Energy System and Product Sales

Our principal performance obligation for System Sales is to design and install a solar energy system that is interconnected to the local power grid and granted permission to operate. When the solar energy system has been granted permission to operate, the customer retains all of the significant risks and rewards of ownership of the solar energy system. For certain System Sales, we provide limited post-sale services to monitor the productivity of the solar energy system for 20 years after it has been placed in service. We collect cash during the installation process and recognize revenue for System Sales and other product sales at the placed in-service date or product delivery date less any revenue allocated to monitoring services. We allocate a portion of the transaction price to the monitoring services by estimating the fair market price that we would charge for these services if offered separately from the sale of the solar energy system. All costs to obtain and fulfill contracts associated with System Sales and other product sales are expensed as a cost of revenue when we have fulfilled our performance obligation and the products have been placed into service or delivered to the customer.

Solar Energy Systems, Net

We sell energy to customers through PPAs or lease solar energy systems to customers through Solar Leases. The solar energy systems installed at customers’ homes are stated at cost, less accumulated depreciation and amortization. Systems that are sold to customers through System Sales are not part of solar energy systems, net. Solar energy systems, net is composed of system equipment costs related to solar energy systems subject to PPAs or Solar Leases. Prior to the implementation of Topic 842 on January 1, 2019, solar energy systems, net also included capitalized initial direct costs. Subsequent to the adoption of Topic 842, previously capitalized initial direct costs and related accumulated amortization were removed from solar energy systems, net and recorded in other non-current assets, net as incremental costs of obtaining contracts. System equipment costs include components such as solar panels, inverters, racking systems and other electrical equipment, as well as costs for design and installation activities once a long-term customer contract has been executed. System equipment costs are depreciated using the straight-line method over 30 years, which is the estimated useful life of the equipment.

We commence depreciation of our solar energy systems once the respective systems have been installed, interconnected to the power grid and received permission to operate. The determination of the useful lives of assets included within solar energy systems involves significant judgment on the part of management.

Impairment of Long-Lived Assets

The carrying amounts of our long-lived assets, including solar energy systems, property and equipment and finite-lived intangible assets are periodically reviewed for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying value of these assets may not be recoverable or that the useful life is shorter than originally estimated. Factors that we consider in deciding when to perform an impairment review include significant negative industry or economic trends, customer payment history and significant changes or planned changes in our use of the assets. Recoverability of these assets is measured by comparison of the carrying amount of each asset to the future undiscounted cash flows the asset is expected to generate over its remaining useful life. If the asset is considered to be impaired, the amount of any impairment is measured as the difference between the carrying value and the fair value of the impaired asset. If the useful life is shorter than originally estimated, we amortize the remaining carrying value over the new shorter useful life. As part of our annual impairment test for long-lived assets for the year ended December 31, 2019, we determined that certain solar energy systems were impaired and required any remaining net asset value and net costs to obtain the contract to be written off, resulting in charges of approximately $3.4 million to cost of revenue—customer agreements and incentives and $0.6 million to sales and marketing.

49


Stock-Based Compensation

Stock-based compensation expense for equity instruments issued to employees is measured based on the grant-date fair value of the awards. The fair value of each restricted stock unit is determined as the closing price of our stock on the date of grant. The fair value of each time-based employee stock option is estimated on the date of grant using the Black-Scholes-Merton stock option pricing valuation model. We recognize compensation costs using the accelerated attribution method for all time-based equity compensation awards over the requisite service period of the awards, which is generally the awards’ vesting period. For performance-based equity compensation awards, we generally recognized compensation expense for each vesting tranche over the related performance period.

Use of the Black-Scholes-Merton option-pricing model requires the input of highly subjective assumptions, including (1) the expected term of the option, (2) the expected volatility of the price of our common stock, (3) risk-free interest rates and (4) the expected dividend yield of our common stock. The assumptions used in the option-pricing model represent our best estimates. These estimates involve inherent uncertainties and the application of our judgment. If factors change and different assumptions are used, our stock-based compensation expense could be materially different in the future.

Provision for Income Taxes

We account for income taxes under an asset and liability approach. Deferred income taxes are classified as long-term and reflect the impact of temporary differences between assets and liabilities recognized for financial reporting purposes and the amounts recognized for income tax reporting purposes, net operating loss carryforwards, and other tax credits measured by applying currently enacted tax laws. A valuation allowance is provided when necessary to reduce deferred tax assets to an amount that is more likely than not to be realized. As required by ASC 740, we recognize the effect of tax rate and law changes on deferred taxes in the reporting period in which the legislation is enacted.

We determine whether a tax position is more likely than not to be sustained upon examination, including resolution of any related appeals or litigation processes, based on the technical merits of the position. We use a two-step approach to recognize and measure uncertain tax positions. The first step is to evaluate the tax position for recognition by determining if the weight of available evidence indicates that it is more likely than not that the position will be sustained upon tax authority examination, including resolution of related appeals or litigation processes, if any. The second step is to measure the tax benefit as the largest amount that is more than 50% likely of being realized upon ultimate settlement. Our policy is to include interest and penalties related to unrecognized tax benefits, if any, within income tax expense.

We sell solar energy systems to the investment funds for income tax purposes. As the investment funds are consolidated by us, the gain on the sale of the solar energy systems is eliminated in the consolidated financial statements. However, this gain is recognized for tax reporting purposes. We account for the income tax consequences of these intra-entity transfers, both current and deferred, as a component of income tax expense and deferred tax liability, net during the period in which the transfers occur.

We recognize income tax effects directly to continuing operations and accumulated other comprehensive loss, or AOCI, pursuant to applicable intraperiod allocation rules. Our policy is to release income tax effects from AOCI using an item-by-item approach when the circumstances upon which they are premised cease to exist.

Derivative Financial Instruments

We maintain interest rate swaps as required by the terms of our debt agreements. The interest rate swaps related to the Solar Asset Backed Notes, Series 2018-2 are designated as cash flow hedges. Changes in the fair value of these cash flow hedges are recorded in other comprehensive loss, or OCI, and will subsequently be reclassified to interest expense over the life of the related debt facility as interest payments are made. As interest payments for the associated debt agreement and derivatives are recognized, we include the effect of these payments in cash flows from operating activities within the consolidated statements of cash flows. The interest rate swaps related to the Warehouse Facility are not designated as hedge instruments and any changes in fair value are accounted for in other expense (income), net. Derivative instruments may be offset under master netting arrangements.

Loss Contingencies

We are subject to the possibility of various loss contingencies arising in the ordinary course of business. We consider the likelihood of loss or impairment of an asset, or the incurrence of a liability, as well as our ability to reasonably estimate the amount of loss, in determining loss contingencies. We accrue an estimated loss contingency when it is probable that an asset has been impaired or a liability has been incurred and the amount of loss can be reasonably estimated. We regularly evaluate current information available to determine whether an accrual is required or should be adjusted or whether a range of possible loss should be disclosed.

50


Non-Controlling Interests and Redeemable Non-Controlling Interests

Non-controlling interests and redeemable non-controlling interests represent fund investors’ interests in the net assets of certain consolidated investment funds that we have entered into in order to finance the costs of solar energy systems under long-term customer contracts. We have determined that the provisions in the contractual arrangements of the investment funds represent substantive profit-sharing arrangements, which give rise to the non-controlling interests and redeemable non-controlling interests. We have further determined that the appropriate methodology for attributing income and loss to the non-controlling interests and redeemable non-controlling interests each period is a balance sheet approach using the HLBV method. Under the HLBV method, the amounts of income and loss attributed to the non-controlling interests and redeemable non-controlling interests in the consolidated statements of operations reflect changes in the amounts the fund investors would hypothetically receive at each balance sheet date under the liquidation provisions of the contractual agreements for these structures, assuming the net assets of these funding structures were liquidated at recorded amounts. The fund investors’ non-controlling interests in the results of operations of these funding structures are determined as the difference in the non-controlling interests’ and redeemable non-controlling interests’ claims under the HLBV method at the start and end of each reporting period, after considering any capital transactions, such as contributions or distributions, between the fund and the fund investors.

Attributing income and loss to the non-controlling interests and redeemable non-controlling interests under the HLBV method requires the use of significant assumptions and estimates to calculate the amounts that fund investors would receive upon a hypothetical liquidation. Changes in these assumptions and estimates can have a significant impact on the amount that fund investors would receive upon a hypothetical liquidation. The use of the HLBV methodology to allocate income to the non-controlling and redeemable non-controlling interest holders may create volatility in our consolidated statements of operations as the application of HLBV can drive changes in net income available and loss attributable to non-controlling interests and redeemable non-controlling interests from quarter to quarter.

We classify certain non-controlling interests with redemption features that are not solely within our control outside of permanent equity on our consolidated balance sheets. Estimated redemption value is calculated as the discounted cash flows subsequent to the expected flip date of the respective investment funds. Redeemable non-controlling interests are reported using the greater of their carrying value at each reporting date as determined by the HLBV method or their estimated redemption value in each reporting period. Estimating the redemption value of the redeemable non-controlling interests requires the use of significant assumptions and estimates. Changes in these assumptions and estimates can have a significant impact on the calculation of the redemption value.

Liquidity and Capital Resources

As of December 31, 2019, we had cash and cash equivalents of $166.0 million, which consisted principally of cash and time deposits with high-credit-quality financial institutions. As discussed in Note 11—Debt Obligations and Note 14—Investment Funds, we do not have full access to a portion of our cash and cash equivalents. We finance our operations primarily from investment fund arrangements that we have formed with fund investors, from borrowings, and from cash inflows from operations.

Our principal uses of cash are funding our operations, including the costs of acquisition and installation of solar energy systems, working capital requirements and the satisfaction of our obligations under our debt instruments. Our business model requires substantial outside financing arrangements to grow the business and facilitate the deployment of additional solar energy systems. While there can be no assurances, we anticipate raising additional required capital from new and existing fund investors, additional borrowings, cash from System Sales and other potential financing vehicles.

We may seek to raise financing through the sale of equity, equity-linked securities, additional borrowings or other financing vehicles. Additional equity or equity-linked financing may be dilutive to our stockholders. If we raise funding through additional borrowings, such borrowings would have rights that are senior to holders of our equity securities and could contain covenants that restrict our operations. We believe our cash and cash equivalents, including our investment fund commitments, projected investment fund contributions and our current debt facilities as further described below, in addition to financing that we may obtain from other sources, including our financial sponsors, will be sufficient to meet our anticipated cash needs for at least the next 12 months. However, if we are unable to secure additional financing when needed, or upon desirable terms, we may be unable to finance installation of our customers’ systems in a manner consistent with our past performance, our cost of capital could increase, or we may be required to significantly reduce the scope of our operations, any of which would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. In addition, our investment funds and debt instruments impose restrictions on our ability to draw on financing commitments. If we are unable to satisfy such conditions, we may incur penalties for non-performance under certain investment funds, experience installation delays, or be unable to make installations in accordance with our plans or at all. Any of these factors could also impact customer satisfaction, our business, operating results, prospects and financial condition. While we believe additional financing is available and will continue to be available to support our current level of operations, we believe we have the ability and intent to reduce operations to the level of available financial resources for at least the next 12 months, if necessary.

51


Sources of Funds

Investment Fund Commitments

As of February 29, 2020, we had raised 28 investment funds to which investors such as banks and other large financial investors have committed to invest approximately $2.2 billion. The undrawn committed capital for these funds as of February 29, 2020 was approximately $133 million, which we estimate will fund approximately 59 megawatts of future deployments.

Debt Instruments

Debt obligations consisted of the following as of December 31, 2019 (in thousands, except interest rates):

 

Principal

 

 

Unused

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Borrowings

 

 

Borrowing

 

 

Interest

 

 

Maturity

 

Outstanding

 

 

Capacity

 

 

Rate

 

 

Date

Solar asset backed notes, Series 2018-1(1)

$

448,277

 

 

$

 

 

 

5.1

%

 

October 2028

Solar asset backed notes, Series 2018-2(2)(3)

 

338,294

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.5

 

 

August 2023

2017 Term loan facility

 

180,365

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.0

 

 

January 2035

2018 Forward flow loan facility

 

124,800

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.7

 

 

November 2039

2019 Forward flow loan facility

 

82,813

 

 

 

67,187

 

 

 

4.7

 

 

(4)

Credit agreement

 

1,266

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.5

 

 

February 2023

Revolving lines of credit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warehouse facility

 

250,000

 

 

 

75,000

 

 

 

4.3

 

 

August 2023

Asset Financing Facility(5)

 

99,000

 

 

 

81,362

 

 

 

5.2

 

 

June 2023

Total debt

$

1,524,815

 

 

$

223,549

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1)

The interest rate disclosed in the table above is a weighted-average rate. The Series 2018-1 Notes are composed of Class A and Class B Notes. Class A Notes accrue interest at 4.73%. Class B Notes accrue interest at 7.37%.

(2)

The Series 2018-2 Notes are composed of Class A and Class B Notes. Class B Notes accrue interest at a rate of LIBOR plus 4.75%. Class A Notes accrue interest at a variable spread over LIBOR that results in a weighted average spread for all 2018-2 Notes of 2.95%.

(3)

The interest rate of this facility is partially hedged to an effective interest rate of 6.0% for $323.6 million of the principal borrowings. See Note 13—Derivative Financial Instruments.

(4)

The maturity date for this facility is 20 years from the end date of the borrowing availability period when all borrowings are aggregated into one term loan, which will be no later than November 20, 2020.

(5)

Facility is recourse debt, which refers to debt that is collateralized by our general assets. All of our other debt obligations are non-recourse, which refers to debt that is only collateralized by specified assets or our subsidiaries.

See Note 11—Debt Obligations for additional details regarding the debt facilities outstanding at December 31, 2019.

Revenue from Operations

In the year ended December 31, 2019, we generated $217.3 million in revenue from customer agreements and incentives, which approximates cash inflow. Cash related to our System Sales is generally received prior to revenue recognition, and we received $121.6 million related to System Sales for the year ended December 31, 2019. The cash from our revenue partially offsets the cash used in operations for the period.

Uses of Funds

Our principal uses of cash are funding our operations, including the costs of acquisition and installation of solar energy systems, satisfaction of our obligations under our debt instruments and other working capital requirements. From time to time, we also reimburse portions of fund investors’ capital as a result of delays in the installation process and interconnection to the power grid of solar energy systems and other factors. We expect our capital expenditures to continue to increase as we continue to install additional solar energy systems. We will need to raise financing to support our operations, and such financing may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all.

52


Historical Cash Flows

The following table summarizes our cash flows for the periods indicated:

 

Year Ended December 31,

 

 

2019

 

 

2018

 

Net cash (used in) provided by:

(In thousands)

 

Operating activities

$

(323,167

)

 

$

(45,655

)

Investing activities

 

(315,836

)

 

 

(329,103

)

Financing activities

 

604,047

 

 

 

510,716

 

Net increase in cash and cash equivalents, including restricted amounts

$

(34,956

)

 

$

135,958

 

Operating Activities

In 2019, we had a net cash outflow from operations of $323.2 million. This was primarily due to outflows of $156.1 million from our net loss excluding noncash and non-operating items and $167.1 million of outflows from changes in working capital. A significant portion of the increase in cash outflows from operations from 2018 to 2019 was a result of adopting Topic 842. Under Topic 842, costs to obtain contracts are no longer considered part of solar energy systems, net, and therefore cash outflows related to costs to obtain contracts are considered operating cash flows in 2019 while they were investing cash flows in 2018. See Note 2—Summary of Significant Accounting Policies for additional details on the adoption of Topic 842.

Investing Activities

In 2019, we used $315.8 million in investing activities primarily due to costs associated with the design, acquisition and installation of solar energy systems. As noted above, cash outflows related to costs to obtain contracts were included in investing cash flows in 2018 while they are included in operating cash flows in 2019 as a result of adopting Topic 842. See Note 2—Summary of Significant Accounting Policies for additional details on the adoption of Topic 842.

Financing Activities

In 2019, we generated $604.0 million from financing activities, of which $563.5 million represented proceeds from long-term debt, $384.4 million represented proceeds from investments by non-controlling interests and redeemable non-controlling interests received by our investment funds, and $3.7 million represented proceeds from our lease pass-through financing obligation. These proceeds were partially offset by repayments of long-term debt of $279.1 million, distributions to non-controlling interests and redeemable non-controlling interests of $51.9 million and payments for debt issuance costs of $16.1 million.


53


Contractual Obligations

Our contractual commitments and obligations were as follows as of December 31, 2019:

 

Payments Due by Period(1)

 

 

Less than

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More than

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Year

 

 

1-3 Years

 

 

3-5 Years

 

 

5 Years

 

 

Total

 

 

(In thousands)

 

Long-term debt

$

14,425

 

 

$

36,868

 

 

$

733,709

 

 

$

739,813

 

 

$

1,524,815

 

Interest payments related to long-term debt(2)

 

78,918

 

 

 

155,258

 

 

 

102,260

 

 

 

193,927

 

 

 

530,363

 

Distributions payable to non-controlling interests

   and redeemable non-controlling interests(3)

 

10,253