How Sustainable Is the Rally in Renewable Energy Stocks?


“Battery prices are down 90 percent over the last five to eight years,” Ms. Bowman said. “As we transition to a cleaner grid, solar generation coupled with battery storage is the cost-effective solution for California,” she added.

Hydrogen fuel cells, which produce electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen, have emerged as a possible near-term solution for use in trucking and shipping, says Mr. Bloom. But such applications will require a costly expansion of the hydrogen gas filling station network, said Steve Capanna, director of U.S. climate policy and analysis for the Environmental Defense Fund. Right now, he said, beyond “a handful in California,” there aren’t many such stations.

Buying shares of renewable energy stocks now requires a degree of faith, because they are so expensive, partly because of the low interest rates engineered by the Federal Reserve, which have helped to drive the overall stock market higher. Fed support may be the biggest reason the market has withstood all the grim economic news of the coronavirus to continue its seemingly unending valuation advance.

Paul Coster, a JPMorgan analyst, said that the high prices in the renewables sector are based on solid achievement. “It’s not like the dot-com era,” he said. “These are real actors with real technology.” He added, “We’re living in this wonderful moment in time when virtue and self-interest coincide.”

Perhaps, Mr. Coster mused, there are still good reasons to own some of these stocks. He cited FuelCell Energy , which has negative cash flow and has consistently reported quarterly earnings losses. Mr. Coster said investors may want to project out several years.

By 2025, he said, it’s “feasible” that FuelCell Energy would have $60 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, justifying a rich, growth stock valuation. Even so, the company’s shares more than doubled in the last month, and on Jan. 14, Mr. Coster warned that at current prices, the stock was already “richly valued.”

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