New hydrogen ETF aims to seize on an $11 trillion opportunity, Defiance ETFs CIO says

Hydrogen energy may be on the cusp of a prolonged heyday.

A new hydrogen and fuel cell-based ETF, the Defiance Next Gen H2 ETF (HDRO), has already accrued $2.85 million in net assets since its launch last week — and this is likely just the beginning, Sylvia Jablonski, chief investment officer at Defiance ETFs, said in a Monday interview with CNBC’s “ETF Edge.”

“As natural reserves dwindle and the populations grow, there’s this need to find a clean, sustainable energy solution that’ll meet our energy demands,” Jablonski said. “None of the existing alternative energy sources out there now like solar, wind or biomass are able to provide sufficient, cost-effective energy supply.”

That’s where hydrogen comes in. Though it currently costs more to produce than other alternative energy sources, those costs are expected to be slashed in half in the coming years, Jablonski said.

It’s also a “massive investment opportunity,” the CIO said — and she’s not the only one who thinks so. Bank of America estimates that the roughly $200 billion industry will grow to $11 trillion of investment and account for some 25% of the world’s energy needs, generating $2.5 trillion in direct revenues by 2050.

“It’s the most abundant element in the universe,” Jablonski said. “Solar and wind are just amazing alternative energy resources, but hydrogen can really take scale.”

That’s already proving out, with organizations including NASA, Amazon, Home Depot, Boeing and Walmart using hydrogen and fuel cell technologies to power vehicles such as forklifts, the CIO said.

Governments around the world have also set their sights on hydrogen, with the U.K. planning to equip buses with hydrogen technology and Germany’s steel industry leveraging hydrogen to offset carbon emissions.

Key to these trends are the companies in Defiance’s new ETF, which requires its holdings to draw at least 50% of their revenues from hydrogen and/or fuel cell technologies.

As of Tuesday, HDRO’s top holdings were Plug Power at around 14.5%, Fuelcell Energy at just under 12%, Ballard Power Systems at 8% and ITM Power at nearly 7%.

“We … wanted to provide a) products that have pure exposure to hydrogen and fuel cells, but b) that are liquid enough,” Jablonski said. “We don’t want the investor to get nailed with products that perhaps don’t trade, don’t have any market cap and are highly volatile. So, you definitely have a smaller basket here, but as these companies grow and more companies come into the marketplace, the ETF could potentially expand.”

HDRO ended trading down 1.5% on Monday. The ETF is up nearly 3% since its launch.