After years of struggling to show expected growth and profitability, renewable energy stocks are among the hottest on the market in 2020. Investors have started to believe in the future of not only wind and solar energy, but also new technologies like hydrogen that could change how the world views energy long term.
There's one company that I think has a better chance than the others to revolutionize energy and provide investors with multibagger potential. That's Bloom Energy (NYSE:BE), the fuel cell company that's making innovative moves to build a hydrogen economy.
What Bloom Energy is today
The foundation for Bloom Energy is its fuel cell server modules, which are pre-packaged fuel cells built into a modular platform. These modules can then be stacked together to make what the company calls a system or power center.
Strictly speaking, fuel cells operate by turning hydrogen into electricity, but that's not the direct energy flow Bloom Energy was built on. Since hydrogen isn't abundantly available today, the company built the business on servers that could use natural gas, biogas, or hydrogen as fuel inputs, so this hasn't been a pure hydrogen business as might be implied by its fuel cell focus.
The markets that Bloom Energy serves are local power systems, like microgrids, or backups for large buildings like hospitals or data centers that value avoiding power outages. These markets have been a big source of demand, as you can see by the revenue chart below. But the company is still burning cash as it grows, so it's not on solid footing quite yet.
With the backdrop of Bloom Energy's history, let's look at its future. Because it's not the natural gas or biogas fuel cells that I'm excited about for Bloom Energy. It's the company's announcement earlier this year that it's investing in the hydrogen market.
Where Bloom Energy is going
Anyone buying shares of Bloom Energy today should be doing so because of its bright future. The company has gone all-in on renewable hydrogen as its area of growth, and that makes sense in today's market.
Bloom Energy can add value to the power market in a few ways by making and using hydrogen. It recently announced an industrial electrolyzer that will turn excess wind and solar power along with water into hydrogen fuel. This fuel can then be used in a Bloom Energy fuel cell at a later time to produce electricity, fuel a hydrogen vehicle, or be transported elsewhere through pipelines. In effect, the combination of electrolyzers and fuel cells makes Bloom Energy an energy storage company, but potentially on a much larger scale than batteries could ever reach.
Traditional power consumers could find a lot of value in this renewable hydrogen approach. Bloom Energy could provide renewable hydrogen backup power for buildings and the grid, which could in turn be a market worth tens or hundreds of billions of dollars per year. But that may just be scratching the surface of hydrogen's use cases.
Bloom Energy announced in June that it has a joint development agreement with Samsung Heavy Industries to develop clean power ships. The modular servers mentioned above could be used on ships to generate the power needed to propel them around the world.
A world of potential
Bloom Energy is its existing fuel cell business selling a backup power source as a jumping-off point for its real growth opportunity, which is in building the hydrogen economy. The first industrial electrolyzer that creates low-cost, clean hydrogen fuel is planned to be completed next year and could demonstrate what Bloom Energy claims is costs on par with gasoline for fuel. At the same time, fuel cells that turn that hydrogen into electricity are coming down in cost each year, making them financially viable in more markets.
As Bloom Energy's technology improves, it could disrupt everything from utility power generation to shipping to backup power for commercial buildings. There are risks in betting on this technology, including the possibility that competitors enter the market, products don't work as planned, or even that alternative technologies become viable more quickly. But I like Bloom Energy's strategy and it's the kind of disruptive business I want to bet on in the growing clean energy economy. That's why this is my top renewable energy stock to buy today.