Can WA be a Clean Hydrogen Hub?

The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was signed into law by President Joe Biden included $8 billion towards the development of at least four regional clean hydrogen hubs, aka “H2Hubs”. The Act defines a “regional clean hydrogen hub” as a network of clean hydrogen producers, potential clean hydrogen consumers, and connective infrastructure located in close proximity”. As well, the Department of Energy’s Hydrogen Shot initiative, launched last year, seeks to reduce the cost of producing clean hydrogen from $5 per kilogram to $1 by 2030, via improvements in both technology and manufacturing. 

Per the Department of Energy

“The hydrogen technology investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are a major component of President Biden’s plan to decarbonize the industrial sector, which accounts for a third of domestic carbon emissions. Hydrogen energy has the potential to decarbonize multiple economic sectors, including heavy-duty transportation and steel manufacturing, create good paying jobs, and pave the way towards a grid powered by clean energy resources.”

Jeff St. John writes in Canary Media that The federal government has $8 billion to spend to kick-start construction of the first ​“clean hydrogen hubs” in the U.S. — and competition for that funding is heating up. 

“Developing this mutually reinforcing network of clean hydrogen suppliers and clean hydrogen buyers will require a large amount of capital investment”, said Thomas Koch Blank, senior principal with the Breakthrough Technologies team at nonprofit research organization RMI. 

“These projects are by their nature capital-intensive,” he said. To get built, a clean hydrogen production facility will need to have customers lined up in advance. ​“Getting that asset utilized is going to be your make-or-break performance indicator. The worst possible outcome is that you don’t get to utilize your asset or you don’t get [buyers for] your product. In such an environment, I think you’ll see lots of bilateral agreements to get the market going.”

In other words, these regional H2Hubs promise to be accelerators for private investment and innovation in our clean energy economy. And that’s why states across the country are competing vigorously to win the DOE awards. For more on the application, selection, and deployment process, read this from the global law firm Nixon Peabody: Hydrogen Hubs are Coming

So is a Hydrogen Hub coming to Washington?

Governor Jay Inslee is poised to sign the bipartisan SB 5910 “Accelerating the availability and use of renewable hydrogen in Washington state”, sponsored by Senators Reuven Carlyle*, Andy Billig, Steve Conway, Brad Hawkins, Sam Hunt, Mark Mullet, Rebecca Saldaña, and Derek Stanford.

This bill intends: 

to establish policies and a framework for the state to become a national and global leader in the production and use of these hydrogen fuels. This act will create an office of renewable fuels to: Promote partnerships among industrial, transportation, agriculture, and commercial interests as well as fuel producers, the technology research sector, and public sector agencies; identify barriers to and opportunities for market development; provide greater clarity and certainty in regulatory and siting standards; provide incentives and financial assistance in the deployment of hydrogen fuel infrastructure; support a clean and just energy transition; help create good quality, clean energy jobs; and improve air quality in degraded areas, particularly in communities that have borne disproportionate levels of air pollution from the combustion of fossil fuels.” 

Further, it will:

“Encourage new and support existing public-private partnerships to increase coordinated planning and deployment of renewable fuels and green electrolytic hydrogen. The office may take all appropriate steps to seek and apply for federal funds... by a public-private partnership entity that leverages private sector leadership and is composed of multiple interests, including public and private project developers, manufacturers and end users, research institutions, academia, government, and communities around the state...”

And it directs the Department of Commerce to:  

“Provide support to a public-private partnership [that will] prepare a timely and responsive application for federal funding to develop a regional clean hydrogen hub in Washington state.”

We’ll stay tuned to Washington state’s public-private effort to win federal funding for a regional H2Hub. Meanwhile...

For an excellent primer on hydrogen -- gray, blue and green -- read this from the Washington Post: Clean energy superstar or smokescreen for fossil fuel use? Here’s what you need to know about hydrogen.

Thank you, state Sen. Reuven Carlyle, for being a model public servant | The Seattle Times

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