Investing in hydrogen stocks has become an exciting and alluring idea because of the huge growth potential of the hydrogen market. Emissions-free green hydrogen is still in its infancy as a commercially viable fuel source, but there are a number of forces now accelerating its development.
The UK, Europe, and the US have made renewable energy part of their ‘build-back-better’ plans for post-Covid economic recovery. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led many countries to rethink their future energy security. And, more broadly, hydrogen is seen as a key element in the global drive to reduce emissions from energy consumption and achieve net zero by 2050. Some analysts estimate the hydrogen economy could be worth more than $10 trillion by that time.
What are hydrogen stocks?
Hydrogen stocks are companies in the renewable energy industry that are primarily focused on the development, manufacture, or sale of hydrogen fuel technology, equipment, or services.
Given the potential size of the market, it’s not surprising to see oil giants, like BP, major utilities, like SSE, and chemical companies, like Johnson Matthey, in the early stages of incorporating hydrogen energy into their business plans.
However, there are a number of firms focused exclusively, or almost exclusively, on the hydrogen economy. Some have been established for many years.
Top hydrogen shares in the UK
Here are some of the UK’s biggest pure-play hydrogen stocks:
|ITM Power (LSE:ITM)
|Developer of proton exchange membrane electrolysers
|Ceres Power Holdings (LSE:CWR)
|Developer of solid oxide fuel cell technology
|AFC Energy (LSE:AFC)
|Developer of alkaline fuel cell systems
|Proton Motor Power Systems (LSE:PPS)
|Developer of an electric fuel cell hybrid system
|Hydrogenone Capital Growth (LSE:HGEN)
|Investment company with a portfolio of holdings in the hydrogen market
|Clean Power Hydrogen (LSE:CPH2)
|Developer of membrane-free electrolyser technology
Founded in 2001, ITM Power became the first hydrogen company on the London Stock Exchange when it listed in 2004.
It has developed and manufactures proton exchange membrane electrolysers, which create green hydrogen using only renewable electricity and water. It has a partnership with Linde, the world’s largest industrial gas company, which also owns 16% of ITM’s shares. Other partners include oil giant Shell and leading European natural gas transport and storage operator Snam.
City analysts are forecasting a step-change in ITM’s revenue to over £50m in its 2023 financial year.
Ceres Power Holdings
Also founded in 2001, Ceres Power joined the stock market a few months after ITM in 2004. It’s the UK’s other hydrogen stock with a market capitalisation in the £1bn+ category.
The company has developed solid oxide fuel cell technology for hydrogen production. Its strategy is to license its technology to global original equipment manufacturers and generate royalties as those manufacturers achieve full-scale commercialisation. Its partners include China’s Weichai Power and Germany’s Bosch. The former owns 20% of Ceres’s shares and the latter 18%.
Analysts have pencilled-in revenue of around £40m for Ceres in 2023.
Founded in 2006 and listed on the stock market in 2007, AFC Energy is one of a number of UK hydrogen stocks currently capitalised in the £100m-£200m bracket.
The company has developed alkaline fuel cell systems that use hydrogen to produce clean energy. It has inked a number of strategic collaborations including with Swedish/Swiss technology multinational ABB, a leading provider of electric vehicle charge points and electrification and digitalisation technologies. ABB also subscribed for £3.25m AFC shares in a subsequent fundraising.
City analysts are forecasting AFC’s revenue to break through £10m for the first time in 2023.
Proton Motor Power Systems
Proton Motor Power Systems was formed and listed on the stock market in 2006 to fund the commercial development of research and pilot fuel cell projects conducted in Germany over the previous decade.
The company has developed a hydrogen fuel cell module integrated with an energy storage system to create an electric fuel cell hybrid system with a zero-carbon footprint. Historical revenue is running below £3m and there are currently no financial forecasts on the company available.
Hydrogenone Capital Growth
In July 2021, Hydrogenone Capital Growth became the first hydrogen investment company listed on the London stock market. By the end of the year, it had deployed almost half the £105m funds it had raised at its flotation.
Around 9% of the capital (£10m) was invested in 19 international hydrogen stocks. It expects these companies to be the eventual leaders in the listed hydrogen market. Its UK picks were ITM Power, Ceres Power, and AFC Energy.
However, Hydrogenone’s performance will rest more on its larger investments in a smaller number of unlisted firms in the sector. For example, it’s invested £10m in Bramble Energy, which has pioneered a printed circuit board fuel cell solution.
Clean Power Hydrogen
As mentioned, ITM is London’s largest and first-listed hydrogen stock, and a leader in proton exchange membrane electrolysers. By contrast, newly listed (February 2022) Clean Power Hydrogen is aiming to ramp-up commercialisation of membrane-free electrolyser technology. It says this technology, in combination with cryogenic gas separation, delivers very high purity hydrogen and medical-grade oxygen.
One analyst suggests the company could see revenue of close to £30m by 2023.
Investing in US hydrogen shares
Despite a fair range of hydrogen stocks on the UK market, there are some larger enterprises in this sector on foreign exchanges. Here are the leading US players in order of market capitalisation:
- Plug Power
- Bloom Energy
- Ballard Power Systems
- FuelCell Energy
Are hydrogen stocks right for you?
There’s little doubt the hydrogen economy will increase to many multiples of its current size in the coming decades. With such a strong structural backdrop for growth, investing in hydrogen shares could be highly rewarding.
Having said that, stocks in the sector also come with higher risk. The businesses are at an earlier stage of development than some in other areas of the renewable energy market. All of the six UK hydrogen companies and four US names featured are currently loss-making businesses. In addition, they’re not forecast to generate positive cash flows any time soon, far less pay dividends. As such, these won’t be the right stocks if your primary focus is on income.
As the hydrogen market grows, and rival technologies are put to the test when the full competitive dynamics of the industry emerge, there are likely to be winners and losers. If you’re prepared to accept above-average risk in exchange for potential high capital returns from the long-term winners, investing in green hydrogen stocks might be right for you.