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Bloom Energy IPO: Too little, too late?

Written By Jeff Siegel

Posted October 10, 2016

bloomupIt’s hard to believe its been more than six years since we first heard about Bloom Energy.

The world went crazy when this company unveiled the Bloom Box – a big fat fuel cell that was pitched as the “Holy Grail” for energy.

It was going to slash CO2 emissions and replace the grid.

It was super efficient and was going to change the world.

It was going to provide affordable, abundant, reliable, clean electricity to every home and business and light up the dark areas of the world in a decade.

But you know what?

At the end of the day it was still nothing more than a really cool fuel cell, and it sure as hell isn’t going to provide clean electricity to every home and business. Even the term “clean” is a bit misleading as some fuels that feed the Bloom Box are non-renewable fossil fuels.

Don’t get me wrong. Fuel cells have their place. The technology is very impressive. But in a world where solar will soon be cheaper than natural gas – without subsidies, and energy intelligence systems can now enable wind, solar, and natural gas-powered turbines to run seamlessly, 24-7, regardless of cloudy days or wind-free nights, it makes you wonder how important Bloom Energy really is to the world.

And by the way, we haven’t even started talking about battery storage, which is miles ahead of where it was back in 2010. In a few more years, you’ll be able to slap some solar panels up on your roof and store the excess in your home stationary battery. No fuels will be necessary other than the sun. And that big beautiful ball of fusion is free and needs no human to distribute it.

That being said, the good folks over at Bloom Energy aren’t in it to lose. And in fact, we just got word that the company has quietly filed for an IPO.

A Lot of Scratch!

According to the Wall Street Journal, Bloom Energy is currently in confidential registration with the SEC to go public. And folks, a lot of people are very excited.

After all, Bloom’s got a pretty impressive customer list, including Home Depot, Apple, Google, eBay, and Walmart. Its board has some pretty impressive folks on it, too, including John Doerr, Steve Case and Colin Powell.

Now, the registration is being done under the Jumpstart Our Businesses Act. This allows companies with less than $1 billion in revenue to file confidentially. Of course, how confidential this is, I don’t know. After all, you know about it now.

In any event, Bloom has installed more than 200 megawatts of its fuel cells around the world. That’s not something to trivialize. And the truth is, the fuel cell market is growing. Nearly ten percent of Fortune 500 companies now use fuel cells for stationary or motive power, according to Greentech Media.

In 2013, the fuel cell industry was valued at about $1.3 billion. That number is expected to hit $5.2 billion by 2019. And because Bloom’s fuel cells have no heat resource like in other CHP fuel cells, it definitely has some technological credibility. The question is, will investors care?

Bloom is currently valued at $2.9 billion. That’s a lot of scratch. But I don’t think it’ll be enough to counter the reality that with the rapid integration of renewables, energy intelligence systems, and storage, it may soon end up being little more than an interesting story about those things we used to use call fuel cells.