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An investment idea from Morgan Stanley analyst Andrew Percoco is among the most interesting I’ve seen this year. I will start, however, with the reminder that the word interesting where trade ideas are concerned does not necessarily translate into future profits. Mr. Percoco’s idea concerns the expected explosion in artificial intelligence-related data centre construction and the need to power them.

Morgan Stanley estimates that the proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) technology will result in global data centre electrical power requirements growing by 407 terawatt hours per year before the end of 2027. For point of comparison, Canada as a whole produced 628 terawatt hours of electricity in 2021.

In terms of upside for a stock, Mr. Percoco believes Bloom Energy Corp. (BE-N), a company producing solid oxide fuel cells for local power generation, will be the biggest beneficiary of the trend. Major providers of AI functionality are in a hurry to build data centres for market share reasons, and the analyst predicts Bloom Energy will fill the gap for existing power grids that will be unable to expand quickly enough.

Bloom Energy’s fuel cells can be up and running in less than two months and offer more benefits than quick connectivity. Fuel cells provide cost-effective power around the clock and can use a variety of fuels including hydrogen, biogas and natural gas. Electricity is produced through a chemical process, not combustion, which limits greenhouse gas emissions.

Bloom Energy currently trades just below US$10, has minimal earnings, and is extraordinarily volatile. Mr. Percoco has a US$22 price target on the stock. His optimistic profit growth expectations are founded on assumptions that exposure to the AI-generated ramp up in electricity demand will see Bloom’s current 300 megawatt annual power generation increase by multiples in the years ahead.

Mr. Percoco’s investment case for Bloom Energy is thorough and compelling, at least on first read. The stock is, on the other hand, down 68 per cent since August 2022 and that kind of volatility is not for the risk-averse. At the very least, this is a company worth watching.

-- Scott Barlow, Globe and Mail market strategist

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