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AFC Energy Plc - Year End Operational Update

RNS Number : 0121E
AFC Energy Plc
03 November 2020
 

The information communicated within this announcement is deemed to constitute inside information as stipulated under the Market Abuse Regulations (EU) No. 596/2014. Upon the publication of this announcement, this inside information is now considered to be in the public domain.

3 November 2020

AFC Energy PLC

("AFC Energy" or the "Company")

Year End Operational Statement - October 2020

AFC Energy (AIM: AFC), a leading provider of hydrogen power generation technologies, is pleased to provide its Year End Operating Statement for the year ended 31 October 2020.

Highlights

·      First commercial agreements signed with >£1m in revenue contracted.

·      Commercial pipeline at different stages of development, growing across initial key target markets.

·      Successfully completed oversubscribed fundraise of £31.6m before expenses (the "Fundraise").

·      Launch of Extreme E's all electric off-road 2021 racing series in October 2020 featuring AFC Energy's H-PowerTM system as primary power supply for the rapid charging of race vehicles.

·      Key milestones being met for on-schedule delivery of first commercial system to Extreme E in December 2020.

·      Working with world leading OEMs and partners in advancement of the H-Power system adoption within integrated off-grid power and ultra-rapid EV charging solutions.

·      Sale of bespoke 100kW H-Power fuel cell system to Forschungszentrum Jülich ("Jülich") at its Living Lab Energy Campus ("LLEC") showcase in Germany (within contracted revenue).

·      Announced in April 2020 collaboration with global constructor, ACCIONA, for 160kW H-PowerTM field trials in Spain in 2021.  

·      First delivery of AlkaMem® membrane samples to industrial and research partners under Material Transfer Agreements in non-fuel cell applications.

·      AlkaMem® results to date continue to confirm compatibility with market leading alkaline electrolyser separators across several key performance metrics - potentially creating access to the fast-growing green hydrogen electrolyser component market.

·      Presentation of AlkaMem® anion exchange membrane technology to industry at the Fraunhofer Society in Germany.

·      Progression towards delivery of a large-scale assembly site for AFC Energy system build and integration in advance of multi-system orders.

·      Commenced recruitment programme in line with the Fundraise use of proceeds, to strengthen commercial and technical capability in support of system deployment

·      Successful concluded the "Dunsfold to Dundee Dash" showcasing the H-PowerTM system to an international audience.

·      Launched in December 2019 the H-PowerTM EV Charger to investors and potential customers.

·      No furloughing or staff redundancies during COVID-19 lockdown with minimal interruption to onsite activities.

 

Adam Bond, AFC Energy's Chief Executive, said "Achievement of AFC Energy's first high profile commercial sales this year, alongside growing interest from future partners and customers, highlights the end of what has been a highly successful year for the Company.  Our balance sheet has never been stronger, our technology more ready, our pipeline more developed, the hydrogen market more validated and the need for sustainable energy more important - all leading indicators that 2021 is expected to be a strong year for the Company as it continues to provide an important solution to the world's decarbonised energy needs." 

Introduction

Whilst the last twelve months have seen challenging economic, political and social issues that are severely impacting our society and livelihoods, the importance of Hydrogen as a means of addressing one of those key challenges, climate change, has heightened the sector and the intrinsic commercial opportunities for AFC Energy across key markets. 

In response to COVID-19 lockdowns, economic stimulus packages across the world have highlighted the need to "Build Back Better" and through this, billions of dollars are now being dedicated to the growth and establishment of the Hydrogen economy.

During 2020, we have developed many commercial enquiries and generated new and important partnering opportunities through OEMs and global energy companies who see their role across the Hydrogen value chain as increasingly important in delivering the Net Zero aspirations of their own customer base. 

To this end, AFC Energy has continued, throughout 2020, to further develop its own technology platforms across the "L" Series, "S" Series and AlkaMem® branded product portfolio, whilst in parallel, furthering the engineering and scale up of systems where we expect to deliver our first 160kW containerised system to Spain next year. 

 

Fundraise

In July 2020, AFC Energy announced completion of the Company's largest investment in its history from institutional and retail investors. A total of £31.6m was raised where funding was highlighted for investment into:

 

(a)   the delivery of projects under development such as Extreme E and ACCIONA;

(b)   new H-PowerTM systems to meet emerging demand and reduce lead times for delivery;

(c)   manufacturing scale-up;

(d)   human capital in support of the above outcomes; and

(e)   the scale-up of AlkaMem® and "S" Series high power dense fuel cell systems.

 

Since July, progress has been made across all fronts with further updates expected across several of these areas in due course.

The importance of the Fundraise not only gives the Company more flexibility and capability in the manner in which it engages with partners and customers, but also provides much needed funding to grow the business at a time when AFC Energy's technology solutions are increasingly seen as a viable alternative to incumbent fossil fuel combustion technologies. 

 

First Commercial Sales  

2020 saw the conclusion of AFC Energy's first commercial contracts with in excess of £1m contracted to be delivered during 2021.

For both Extreme E and Jülich's state of the art microgrid configuration integrating AFC Energy's hydrogen fuel cells in Germany, we have already seen income invoiced on several instalments, and under accounting policies, will see that income recognised in the Company's accounts for the year ended 31 October 2021. 

The pipeline of opportunities under development continues to grow and the Company is now working with both prospective UK and overseas customers in the advancement of several new multi-order initiatives and further announcements will be made in the coming  months at the appropriate stages. 

With sales comes the need for re-organisational shifts towards manufacturing, commissioning, technicians and after sales staff which all falls within the current recruitment drive throughout the Company. 

Extreme E is a high profile first contract for the Company which not only delivers revenue, but also tremendous marketing opportunities with a projected worldwide audience of 200 million expected to watch the race series during 2021.  The race event, and AFC Energy's involvement has also given rise to new interest from temporary power markets, including global plant hire businesses, keen to find alternatives to diesel engines in some of the remotest locations and harshest climates on Earth. 

We continue to work with several of these organisations to frame commercial markets bringing together turnkey solutions across upstream fueling strategies, system maintenance and commercial models for possible future global distribution.  For this reason, our agreements with Extreme E and ACCIONA are key stepping stones to demonstrate the robustness, reliability and flexibility of our product in our target applications and in a global setting. 

 

Product Range

In late 2019, AFC Energy announced its core product range of H-Power systems, designed to operate within the constraints of a standard shipping container for ease of transportation and operation. 

The first 20kW unit, launched in December 2019, has successfully demonstrated the basic underlying design concepts of the containerised fuel cell module.  Our plan, as announced before the pandemic, was to deliver a 160kW nameplate system by mid-2020. The 160kW system will be built around four x 40kW modules which will operate independently but which will improve system availability and reliability. 

The system we are delivering to Extreme E will utilise this core 40kW design as its basis and is a key part of the 160kW development plan. Due to the COVID-19 lock down and our funding position at the time, we took the decision to assemble the 40 kW and 160 kW units sequentially with the latter now scheduled for deployment to ACCIONA in Spring 2021.

Reviews have been made of various scale up assembly and manufacturing sites for the growth expected in fuel cell system deployment over the coming years.  We are working towards a preferred solution on which we will update the market on in due course. 

Adoption of ammonia as a preferred vector for the carriage of Hydrogen is also gaining momentum.  We are continuing to work closely with the ammonia industry, including joining the Ammonia Energy Association as Gold Members in 2020, to further capitalise on a key selling point of the AFC Energy alkaline fuel cell system in the use of lower grade, and lower cost,  Hydrogen as derived from cracking Ammonia. 

At the beginning of the year we announced the re-branding of the high-power density anion exchange membrane HydroX-Cell(S). Progress continues to be made in the design, scale up and validation activities despite the fact that one particular outsourced manufacturing process had to be put on hold during lockdown due to factory closures, a risk which has now been mitigated through an alternative service provider outside of the UK.

The power density achieved on the "S" Series fuel cell system continues to grow and compares favourably with the PEM fuel cells in the market today.  Prototype systems have been designed in advance of fabrication and we are at an advanced stage of investing in the building of our new Anion Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell Research Centre in Surrey to take development of the membrane and "S" Series fuel cell forward.   

The EU electrolysis opportunity continues to grow and is expected to reach 40GW by 2030 and alkaline water electrolysis is expected to be a major contributor to this growth. We have recruited additional research scientists and sponsored a PhD student to work with a recognised leading expert in the field, to accelerate the development of AlkaMem®. We have also supplied our membrane to several industrial and academic institutions in Europe under Material Transfer Agreements for trialing and validation.  In October of this year we were invited to present our progress in membrane performance and development at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute which hosted its third Advanced Alkaline Electrolysis conference. 

 

Strategic Partners

During the past six months, we have announced not only our first commercial customers, but also commenced working with a number of world class partners who see the value proposition of the alkaline fuel cell in applications such as construction and temporary power.

Apart from being a customer of AFC Energy, Extreme E is also a partner in the advancement of hydrogen as a sustainable fuel in delivering a Net Zero solution for remote and distributed power systems. 

Extreme E has presented several early opportunities for joint marketing, but following the official season 2021 launch in late October 2020, we expect this profile to continue to rise, particularly with strong endorsements of the technology from the Extreme E CEO, Alejandro Agag, referencing AFC Energy's fuel cell as the "perfect solution" to their need for sustainable off-grid power, but also from six time Formula 1 Championship Driver, Lewis Hamilton, who acknowledged the importance of our fuel cell system in the overall credibility of the Championship's focus on climate change and environmental protection.  The Extreme E global launch event can be seen at www.extreme-e.com/launch.

The agreement to trial our equipment with ACCIONA on a working construction site in the Spring of 2021 underscores the international reputation of our equipment but also confirms that the use of our equipment extends beyond EV charging and is being considered as a genuine displacement of diesel generators, not only in the UK, but on a global stage. 

Finally, our relationship with De Nora remains strong following the extension of our Joint Development Agreement in the latter part of 2019.  Electrodes manufactured by De Nora will be used within all of the Extreme E, Jülich and ACCIONA projects in 2021. 

 

 

Marketing and Communication

The AFC Energy web site and our annual report and RNS releases, at the appropriate times, are historically our principal communication channel with shareholders. This year has seen an increase in time and resources dedicated to communicating with potential customers including multiple advertising and in-depth articles in trade magazines, roadshows and presentations to trade associations. We have also received exposure in national press and television including Sky News, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, Daily Telegraph and New Statesman.

Other activities planned such as the British Motor Show and Shareholder meetings unfortunately have had to be cancelled due to COVID-19 but we plan to relaunch these activities at the earliest convenient opportunity. We remain committed to regular communication with the market and our investors and are in the process of adding internal resource to support this activity.

Our customer marketing efforts continue to motivate a growing number of in-bound enquiries and perhaps the best example was ACCIONA who approached us following AFC Energy's roadshow event in Cumbria.

 

Outlook

As regulations pertaining to diesel generation continue to tighten, Environment, Social and Governance ("ESG") agendas become more prevalent, the rate of Electric Vehicle deployment and their required rate of charge increases, and the cost of Hydrogen continues to fall, the outlook for AFC Energy is increasingly bright.

The growing number of enquiries for our system  are increasingly highlighting and validating the market opportunity for the Company in its key target markets of construction, temporary power and ultra-rapid EV charging, where we hope to be confirming a number of these relationships to the market shortly. 

Hydrogen is now viewed as a firm component of the decarbonisation agenda of every developed nation and in the UK and Europe, provides a strong basis for growth. 

The pandemic has had an obvious impact on businesses generally, which has affected the way we all operate, our supply chains and our interaction with our customers. Given the current state of the pandemic we expect such disruptions to continue for some time. However, we have demonstrated that we have been able to successfully work through these challenges and are committed to continue to do so.

 AFC Energy has seen many successes over the past twelve months and as we prepare for the new opportunities presenting themselves in 2021, we are well equipped to capitalise on these prospects and for the Company continues to go from strength to strength.    

 

For further information, please contact:

AFC Energy plc

Adam Bond (Chief Executive Officer) 

+44 (0) 14 8327 6726



WH Ireland Nominated Adviser and Joint Broker

Mike Coe (Corporate Finance)

Jasper Berry (Corporate Broking)

+44 (0) 117 945 3470



M C Peat & Co LLP - Joint Broker

Charlie Peat

+44 (0) 20 7104 2334



Tuva Partners - Public Relations

Alex Brooks  

+44 (0) 7900 205 460

About AFC Energy

AFC Energy plc is commercialising a scalable alkaline fuel cell system, to provide clean electricity for on and off grid applications. The technology, pioneered over the past twelve years in the UK, is now deployable in electric vehicle chargers, off-grid decentralised power systems and industrial gas plants as part of a portfolio approach to the decarbonisation of local electricity needs.

 

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