The Northeast May Become A "Hydrogen Hub"

The Northeast May Become A "Hydrogen Hub"

Residents of the Northeast might soon be able to see the clean energy transition happening right in their backyards. Provided that states and private partners obtain funding allocated by Congress to the Department of Energy (DOE), the region may become one of the country’s four regional clean hydrogen “hubs” as part of the $8 million H2Hubs program supported by the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Though the DOE has yet to hear proposals and allocate funds, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts are looking to enter a multi-state partnership alongside 40 private hydrogen ecosystem firms to advance clean hydrogen energy in the region.

“It’s really a demonstration program,” Emily Kent, policy manager at the nonprofit Clean Air Task Force, told Grist. “On the production side, we’re demonstrating that we can produce hydrogen with really low greenhouse gas intensity. On the end-use side, we’re demonstrating that we can use hydrogen in new ways than we ever have before.”

DOE: What are Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs?, March 22, 2022.

PBS: Could hydrogen be the clean fuel of the future?, April 20, 2022.

News 8 WROC: Hydrogen fuel cell buses to arrive in Rochester to meet zero-emissions goals, July 15, 2022.

DW: Is green hydrogen the answer to the climate crisis?, November 2, 2021.

Why This Matters

Hydrogen manufactured without the use of fossil fuels has a critical role in the clean energy transition and race toward net zero by 2050, the IPCC asserts. Expanding support for hydrogen will aid in the large-scale decarbonization of hard-to-abate sectors like manufacturing, heavy-duty transportation, agriculture, and power. It also poses a significant opportunity for green public and private sector collaboration.

DW: The truth about hydrogen, February 25, 2022.

The Economist: Hydrogen | fuel of the future?, August 25, 2021.

Envisioning A Hydrogen Hub

Though other forms of renewable energy are now more economically favorable than fossil fuels, clean hydrogen is still expensive. The DOE hopes these “hubs” will allow for technological development, the creation of a hydrogen network, and establish the role of clean hydrogen as a climate solution.

All four states in the partnership have indicated a goal to decarbonize transportation and the electrical grid at the very least. New York has already started subsidizing the construction of North America’s largest green hydrogen plant. Even non-state partners are on board, such as Cummins, a company that has pledged to manufacture hydrogen-powered engines for heavy-duty machinery by 2050.

Nevertheless, the exact vision for the hubs remains to be seen, especially given that transportation and distribution of the fuel source are still uncertain. Some suggest hydrogen can be blended with natural gas and delivered to power plants through existing pipelines. Others are more hesitant, stating that further pipeline investment could prolong the use of natural gas in the short term. Experts say the program’s uncertainties mean it’s too soon to make these large decisions.

“In a market that is still so new, where we don’t really know exactly where the demand comes from, and where the supply’s going to come from, and we still need to do a lot of learning, making those early, big investments in pipelines is really risky,” stated Rachel Fakhry, a senior advocate at the National Resources and Defense Center (NRDC), to Grist.

The stakes are high. A new study from the Environmental Defense Fund found that when hydrogen facilities have high-leak rates, they are not the green dream advocates hoped for, and may even accelerate climate change. Hydrogen’s future as a clean energy superstar depends on its execution.

Forbes: 'We're Never Gonna Have A Pipeline' | Murkowski Explores How Hydrogen Can Help Hard To Reach Alaskans, July 19, 2022.

Forbes: How Hydrogen Trucks Are Shaping The Future Of The Port Of Los Angeles, October 29, 2020