Since I went 4.5  for 10 last year I felt I needed to return to my terot cards take another shot at ten fearless predictions for the coming year.  We will revisit these at the end of the year to see how we did.  If you have some insights or questions, let us know at and we will include those in a future newsletter.

    1. The momentum for the “hydrogen highway” will stall out.  Battery electric vehicles are proving to be superior to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in almost every way.  As a result, sales of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are lagging expectations and hydrogen sales have grown slowly.  About 152,000 battery electric and plug-in hybrids were sold in the state in 2019, compared to about 1500 fuel cell electrics.  Only 8 FCEVs were sold in the last quarter of 2018 in our ten-county region. Probably fewer than 30 were sold here in all of 2019.  The total registrations for FCEVs in the state stands at about 6,000 at year-end, while the total for battery and plug-in electrics is about 616,000.  (Exact data as of end of 2018 are 248,332 battery electrics, 216,042 plug-in hybrids, and 5,391 FCEVs). In 2017, the Air Resources Board projected that there would be 13,400 FCEVs in 2020 and 37,400 by 2023.  At one time, the goal was a million FCEVs by 2030. None of these will be even close to being realized.

      A huge reason is that hydrogen fuel has turned out to be much more expensive than gasoline and particularly more costly than electricity.  Currently, hydrogen is priced at about $12.50 per kg, with equivalent energy to a gallon of gasoline but with a fuel cell double the efficiency of an engine, the equivalent of gasoline is more like $6.25 per gallon.  Stated another way, gasoline costs about 12 cents per mile (at $3.15 per gallon), hydrogen 25 cents, and electricity 6 cents.

      This leads us to make several predictions for 2020: 
      • Sales of FCEVs in our region will fall below 10.
      • The number of hydrogen refueling stations will barely reach 50 statewide (there are 44 now, with 3 in our area).  Governor Brown’s goal was 100 stations by 2020, 200 stations by 2025, and 1000 by 2030. We may never see 100 stations in California.
      • The price of hydrogen locally will not fall below $10 per kilogram.
      • A major auto company will announce it is dropping its FCEV production. 
    2. The number of EV charging stations around Sacramento will exceed 1000.  According to ChargeHub, there are currently 566 charging stations within 15 km of downtown Sacramento.  Of these 478 are Level 2 (220 V) chargers and 88 are Level 3 (480 V, 110 A). We believe the total for this area will exceed 1000 by the end of the year with over 200 being Level 3.  We may also see the first fast chargers go into existing gas stations, an interesting development in itself.  
    3. One more independent EV company in the US will announce it is beginning manufacturing.  The field is getting crowded and one might think some companies would drop out.  They may, but at the same time we think there will be at least one more entrepreneur who will take the plunge. At the same time, we could see some other established car companies announce full battery electric cars this year. 
    4. There will be at least 15 nominees for Sustainable Innovation of the Year.  Stoel Rives and the Sacramento Business Journal will be conducting this contest again in 2020, the fourth year for it.  It has been a good way to highlight the best and brightest in clean tech. The number of companies nominated has been an indicator of interest in sustainability and of the level of activity in the clean tech community.  The first year, there were 16 nominees, but the number has trended down ever since. We believe there has been a surge in bringing innovations to market in our area and that should be reflected in the number of nominees. 
    5. Prices for a ton of carbon emission reduction in 2020 will still not break $20.  It has been rising slowly both in the prompt and futures markets, but the supply of carbon emission reductions has continued to grow, keeping a lid on prices.  The most recent price for carbon allowances for 2021 cleared at $19.53, so maybe next year we will have to take a closer look. 
    6. The installed cost of solar PV will rise modestly.  We were wrong about this one last year.  But with the new requirements for solar on all new homes and the continuation of the tariffs on Chinese panels, we cling to the idea that the cost will be pushed up a few cents from its current $4.50 per kW on homes. 
    7. The revenue generated by our regional clean tech companies will top $6 billion.  The last time we collected this information in late 2018, the total was $5 billion, but we see an upswell in sales success.  Maybe it will result in 20% growth over two years. Wouldn’t that be nice?
    8. A bill will be introduced in California to extend generous subsidies to homeowners to install storage.  The subsidies for PV panels are declining.  There are subsidies for grid-scale storage, but not much for the homeowner.  We expect there will be a move to change this, but it won’t pass. Maybe 2021. 
    9. Two renewable-based microgrids with over 1000 customers each will be established in Northern California.  The power shutoffs of last year are accelerating the interest of communities in creating sections of the grid that can be powered more reliably.  Already, PG&E has trucked-in engine-generators to provide power during shutoffs, but people are demanded cleaner solutions. Some clever communities, whether as part of the CCA movement or separately, are looking at solar, wind, hydro and battery combinations to give them better reliability.  Dozens if not hundreds of communities are having these discussions. There are already about 100 microgrids in the state serving a few large customers each in most cases. The question is whether this will spread to larger aggregations of customers and to the use of renewables. There are many obstacles, so getting two done in 2020 is actually a pretty aggressive prediction.
    10. One cleantech startup in our region will be acquired for a substantial sum.  We know there are several discussions underway.  Just waiting for the shoe to drop.

 Make sure to follow CleanStart this year and see how I do on my predictions.


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Thomas Hall


Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStarts Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

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College of Engineering & Computer Science at Sacramento State