Frank Wolak, President and CEO of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association – argues that when it comes to a stronger economy and a cleaner environment – hydrogen brings it all together
In the United States and globally, all eyes are turning to hydrogen. Now acknowledged as key tools to help achieve the overarching goals of decarbonisation and economic growth, hydrogen energy and fuel cell technologies offer a litany of benefits to a wide range of applications.
Hydrogen and fuel cells have a long, proven track record providing clean and reliable power to the stationary, mobility, and material handling markets. Today, exciting innovations are unlocking low- and zero-carbon hydrogen energy for some of the most difficult-to-decarbonise sectors, including trucking, logistics, energy storage, natural gas blending, marine propulsion, aviation, heating, steelmaking and other industrial applications.
“The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed in the U.S. Senate, contains significant funding streams to jumpstart the hydrogen economy in the U.S. The legislation would support the development of a national hydrogen roadmap and strategy, as well as provide $8 billion for Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs, $1 billion for Clean Hydrogen Electrolysis R&D and hundreds of millions to boost manufacturing and recycling.”
Meeting net zero-emission targets
Study after study, including the recent Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector from the International Energy Agency and the Roadmap to a U.S. Hydrogen Economy from McKinsey & Company, expounds that much faster adoption of hydrogen is necessary to meet the net zero-emission targets set by both public and private entities.
With that in mind, governments around the world are releasing hydrogen strategies and investing in developing local and regional networks. The industry is growing both in strength and number as more companies are either becoming involved in the supply chain or utilising hydrogen and fuel cells to reduce emissions and carbon intensity of industrial processes.
As other countries make strong financial and policy investments in the hydrogen economy, the U.S. must maintain the mantle of leadership and move towards a national strategy to not fall behind.
We already have a strong head start. Fuel cell and electrolyser manufacturers, hydrogen fuel suppliers, and component and material providers are located across the country, providing thousands of jobs to local economies. There are tens of thousands of fuel cells powering forklifts, hospitals, grocery stores, data- centres, universities, telecommunications towers, cars, buses, trucks, and much more. Fuel cells are also being deployed in microgrids, critical networks and grid-free rapid electric vehicle charging stations, to provide clean, reliable and scalable power to fit any need.
Millions of metric tonnes of hydrogen are already produced annually in the U.S. and in order to meet the large, predicted growth in hydrogen demand, we are seeing billions of dollars of private and public sector investments to expand large-scale hydrogen generation capacity.
In addition, there are many new methods of hydrogen production emerging, such as gasification processes, ammonia and renewable natural gas streams from waste sources, electrolyser capacity is growing at a rapid rate, and a variety of developments for liquid hydrogen, carbon capture, and nuclear-based hydrogen, and other generation pathways are coming online. This is boosting local economies and encouraging additional development in hydrogen delivery and storage supply chains.
Those with eyes on Washington, D.C. are anxiously watching the push and pull of policymaking that could impact the industry tremendously. The McKinsey report shows that hydrogen can help meet 14% of the total U.S. energy demand while greatly reducing carbon and other emissions, creating jobs, increasing revenues and boosting exports. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle see that potential and merit in supporting a domestically-produced fuel that helps achieve our climate and economic goals.
The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed in the U.S. Senate, contains significant funding streams to jumpstart the hydrogen economy in the U.S. The legislation would support the development of a national hydrogen roadmap and strategy, as well as provide $8 billion for Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs, $1 billion for Clean Hydrogen Electrolysis R&D and hundreds of millions to boost manufacturing and recycling. In addition, there are a wide range of important incentive programs under consideration for the reconciliation legislation that would drive investment and manufacturing. If these bills become law, it underscores that the U.S. is serious about its commitment to supporting hydrogen’s role in the country’s energy mix. This certainty provides stability, which will stimulate growth and encourage even further private sector development.
The future of the hydrogen & fuel cell industry
The hydrogen and fuel cell industry have the potential to create millions of high-quality jobs and generate billions in revenue globally up and down the value chain, all while decarbonising energy-intensive industries and providing clean, reliable power. The world is moving quickly to reap these benefits, and the U.S. should not let this opportunity pass us by.