The highs and lows of hydrogen and fuel cell stocks in recent weeks can be best described as a bumpy ride following a significant and rapid increase in prices. It seems to me that the market has entered a major consolidation phase. Yet this is no reason to lose faith, especially as the wild fluctuations that have been raging since early December 2020 – with some stocks climbing more than 50 percent inside a month – begged a correction. A process which is now in full swing. At the end of the day, it’s the future of the industry that counts and so here I stand by the old stock market maxim: The trend is your friend.
There has been a stark rise in the valuation of the business from around USD 100 million to now over USD 9 billion, with the stock price increasing from USD 1 – USD 2 to USD 29. I would go so far as to call it totally excessive. I got early wind of FuelCell Energy [Nasdaq: FCEL] as a turnaround after a management consultancy had “cleaned it up” and after the company had undergone a period of refinancing and restructuring and happily onboarded Orion Energy Partners as a key investor.
There are two sides to every story. And that’s very much the case with the planned cooperation with General Motors, GM, and the cancellation of 2,500 battery electric refuse trucks for Republic Services which turned out to be rather fortuitous in retrospect. In the GM scenario, Nikola would itself have had to spend over USD 700 million on tools, among other things. The participation of GM with USD 2 billion as a “valuable consideration” would have resulted in a dilution of the number of issued stocks.
Plug Power [Nasdaq: PLUG] has undergone one financing round after another, with a third bought deal sandwiched in between, this time to the tune of more than USD 1.7 billion. What’s more, the South Korean SK Group has promised to put up USD 1.6 billion in return for a 9.9 percent ownership stake in the company, an investment that will also form a basis for a joint venture between the two corporations. And if that’s not enough, Plug, which is headquartered in the U.S., intends to fit out delivery vehicles for France’s Renault Group. Plus, the company has been busy buying in top talent for its management team. That’s the good news.
The company Weichai Power, which I’ve so far only mentioned in this column as partnering Ballard, has a revenue around the EUR 20 billion mark and a stock market valuation of the same order. In 2020, a good EUR 1 billion was marked up as profit, with dividends also paid out. Weichai Power has several bus brands to its name and is the nation’s largest diesel engine manufacturer; it has clearly recognized the potential offered by fuel cells in the commercial vehicle sector and, in its own words, is intent on becoming the market leader.
That Tesla chief Elon Musk would, one way or another, place his trust in Bitcoin was to be expected. He had already stated his interest and his enthusiasm for the cryptocurrency many times in the past and had previously considered switching the whole of his corporate financing to this digital money format. Words turned to action, with Tesla investing USD 1.5 billion in bitcoins.
Off-grid living in Germany and Australia
Energy self-sufficiency, a dream for a number of homeowners, is now gradually becoming a reality. As isolated projects have already demonstrated, it is perfectly feasible to forgo a conventional grid connection and have a property’s entire energy needs met by renewables alone. The technology that makes this possible is on the tipping point of serial production following years of development, a move that could also bring the price down to a more acceptable level in the not too distant future.
Supplying zero-carbon energy to entire districts
An increasing number of building projects are now incorporating an energy supply based on hydrogen and fuel cells. Given the targets set out in the Paris climate agreement, the current thinking is clearly to avoid designing new housing developments that are dependent on fossil fuels and instead switch entirely to renewables. Due to the high expense that is sometimes associated with innovative energy technology, it makes sense to maximize the number of users. Residential neighborhoods in particular, which may run from several dozen homes to a hundred properties, are one way of making this alternative approach worthwhile.
Are fuel cell appliances fed by natural gas fit for the future?
Fuel cell heating appliances have now been on the market for several years. The choice, however, is limited and the prices are high, which explains the slow growth in the number of installations. Yet, perhaps there are other reasons why this section of the market has yet to pick up. For although there is currently a great deal of funding available for initiatives that encourage a switch to energy-efficient heating appliances, particularly when upgrading from an outdated oil-fired system, fuel cell heating units – just like condensing boilers – have the drawback of burning natural gas, thus making them a source of carbon dioxide emissions.
Digital Handelsblatt Energy Summit 2021
Global energy trends are clearly moving in the direction of hydrogen – and away from fossil fuels. That’s the conclusion that can be drawn from the three-day digital energy summit staged by German business paper Handelsblatt which ran from Jan. 13 to Jan. 15, 2021. The energy sector as a whole faces enormous challenges as it continues along the path of decarbonization. Coal will be exhausted and demand for oil, too, will gradually decline in favor of hydrogen – with green hydrogen a credible prospect in the longer term given its renewable credentials. Natural gas must also become cleaner, though carbon capture and storage, CCS, remains a divisive issue. “Turquoise” hydrogen, meanwhile, can be viewed as a sensible option for applications associated with the production of green steel. No mention was made of yellow hydrogen produced from biogas, and was addressed instead in terms of hydrogen created using nuclear power.