The Energy Department has opened up applications for $7 billion to establish up to 10 regional hydrogen hubs, part of a broader road map unveiled Thursday that officials described as essential to lowering emissions in industrial sectors such as energy, transportation, steel, and cement.
The hub program—established by Congress in the infrastructure bill passed last November—was announced during the Energy Department’s Clean Energy Ministerial and Global Clean Energy Action Forum in Pittsburgh, where government officials and industry executives discussed hydrogen’s role in meeting climate goals.
“We’re not just here to talk, but to take concrete steps in our march toward a clean energy future,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, announcing the department’s hydrogen ambitions to a crowd of about 4,000 people from 35 countries gathered at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Hydrogen is a versatile source of energy that can be used to clean up hard-to-decarbonize industries and reach climate goals of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the power sector by 2035 and across the U.S. economy by 2050, David Turk, deputy secretary of energy, told reporters in a conference call. A colorless and odorless gas, hydrogen releases water as the sole byproduct when used in a fuel cell.
“This is one of the largest investments in DOE history going to what we believe will be a generational opportunity,” Turk said. “There is no part of that [infrastructure] bill that has gotten more attention and more interest than the hydrogen hubs piece.”
Hydrogen has drawn bipartisan interest from states. A group of Midwestern governors this week unveiled a coalition aimed at developing hydrogen as an alternative energy source to boost the region’s decarbonization efforts.
The department plans to select at least four regional hubs, with at least one from “green” hydrogen produced by renewable energy; one from “blue” hydrogen sourced from natural gas and using carbon capture and storage; and one “pink” hydrogen project from nuclear power.
The department is seeking geographic diversity and expects to see applications that include broad groups of hydrogen stakeholders: companies, government agencies, producers and consumers, pipelines, and transportation companies, said Kelly Cummins, acting director and principal deputy director for the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, which is managing the program.
No major changes were made to the department’s hydrogen hub strategy compared with a notice of intent released in June, Cummins said. Concept papers are due by Nov. 7, 2022, and full applications are due by April 7, 2023.
The department also released a draft of the National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap for public feedback. The roadmap provides an overview of the potential for hydrogen to “contribute to national decarbonization and economic development goals,” the department said in a news release.
A final version of the strategy and roadmap will be released in the coming months and updated at least every three years.
The hub program was advanced as the industry is poised to grow with a hydrogen tax credit established by the climate and tax bill passed by Congress last month.
In Pittsburgh on Thursday, officials at a hydrogen business forum discussed ways to scale up the infrastructure.
Participants described the importance of public-private partnerships to reach the Energy Department’s “1-1-1" goal of reducing the cost of clean hydrogen by 80% to $1 per one kilogram in one decade.
“It’s doable—for years, we just haven’t been paying attention to it,” John Kerry, special presidential envoy for climate, told a packed room in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. “I think that’s why this room is full: People understand this is a new era.”
Transportation of hydrogen will be a key component, conference participants said. Permitting overhaul legislation unveiled by Sen.
Turk said the Biden administration was sensitive to concerns from environmental justice communities that hydrogen could lead to local impacts and climate emissions.
“We are doing this in a full, rigorous, environmental integrity way,” Turk said, adding he has engaged in conversation with advocacy groups and community leaders, meeting recently with the Environmental Defense Fund to talk about how to define clean hydrogen.