What happened

Shares of all the major fuel cell stocks popped Thursday on some good news out of Washington and some news from one of the fuel cell companies themselves that wasn't as bad as it could have been.

As of noon EST, shares of Bloom Energy (BE -6.11%) are up 6.5%, FuelCell Energy (FCEL -10.44%) is gaining 6.6%, Plug Power (PLUG -1.54%) is up 8%, and Ballard Power Systems (BLDP -3.19%) is up 8.8%.

Four wavy arrows zooming up

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Ballard, incidentally, is the one with actual news today -- or more precisely last night. Wednesday evening, Ballard dropped its fourth-quarter earnings report, showing a $0.05 per share loss where Wall Street had predicted only $0.04, and $28.6 million in sales versus the Street's anticipated $30.2 million.

Speaking plainly, it was a miss on both the top and bottom lines. And yet, it wasn't a huge miss, and the news wasn't all bad. Although sales declined 32% for the quarter, they were down only 2.3% for the fiscal year 2020 as a whole -- not a horrible performance for an economy mired in pandemic and recession. More importantly (both for Ballard and for its peer fuel cell companies), the company noted the "unprecedented progress with strong policy support" that the fuel cell industry attracted last year, which is continuing into this year, giving hope that 2021 will be even better than 2020.  

Now what

Around the globe, roughly 50 countries around the world have now announced "CO2 pricing initiatives," notes Ballard. Seventy-five countries have set "net zero targets" for carbon emissions, and more than 30 countries are specifically adopting "hydrogen strategies" to reduce carbon emissions. All of that sounds propitious for fuel cells, which by their nature generate electricity without releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

In the U.S., UtilityDive.com is reporting today that Senate Democrats are preparing to introduce a revived "Clean Energy for America Act" that will replace the current system of "short term" tax credits specifically targeting the solar and wind industries with "permanent ... technology-neutral" subsidies for green energy in general.

On a macro level, such legislation would be good news for renewable energy investors in general, as it would help to allocate monies more rationally toward the most efficient and profitable green energy industries. For investors in fuel cell stocks in particular, in would likely open up access to copious streams of federal money that had previously been reserved only for companies in the solar and wind sectors, making them available to fuel cell companies, too.  

Although passage is not assured, even just the potential for a law such as this one is giving fuel cell investors new reasons to cheer today.