‘Fuel-cell experts don’t grow on trees’: Ottawa pledges $670k to industry group

Federal government says funding will help make connections between local hydrogen fuel cell industry and emerging markets

Bus with Ballard Power Systems fuel cell technology

The federal government is looking to generate more energy in Western Canada’s fuel cell sector with a $670,000 funding commitment to a local industry group.

The dollars will go towards the Vancouver-based Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (CHFCA), Ottawa announced Friday (February 2).

“Through this funding, now today, the CHFCA will be able to further support their members by bolstering marketing and training efforts while engaging the key market players,” Hedy Fry, the Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre, said during a news conference in the city’s downtown.

“These efforts will help the CHFCA forge ties with emerging markets, such as China, Korea, Southeast Asia and India.”

A report from Spruce Point Capital Management recently called into question the nascent Chinese market’s demand for fuel cell technology.

In its January 25 report the short-seller concluded Burnaby-based Ballard Power Systems (TSX: BLDP) — long considered a global leader in the industry — saw the value of its shares rise 167% in 2017 mostly due to “hype” over Chinese demand for the clean energy alternative.

Ballard shot back a few days later, accusing the report of containing inaccuracies.

Ballard’s stock reversed losses following the Spruce Point report after the company also revealed it was projecting record annual revenue of about $120 million in the 2017 fiscal year.

Andreas Truckenbrodt, who leads the CHFCA and was visiting China last month, told Business in Vancouver he disagreed with the conclusions of the Spruce Point report.

“China needs clean energy and they know that,” Truckenbrodt said, adding he’s witnessed the Chinese market shift a significant amount of its focus from electric vehicles to fuel-cell technology.

“The reason why they’re so interested in what we have here is fuel-cell experts don’t grow on trees and it’s relatively high-level expertise you need. And we have that here.”

torton@biv.com

@reporton