The Biden-Harris Administration’s visionary investment of $7 billion into Clean Hydrogen Hubs (H2Hubs) marks a pivotal leap toward propelling the nation into an era of widespread and affordable hydrogen utilization.1 This initiative is not just a financial commitment but a cornerstone in the United States’ journey toward achieving crucial climate objectives and enhancing energy security.
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The key goal of this initiative is to transition away from a reliance on fossil fuels. By embracing hydrogen power at a commercial scale, the US can mitigate the adverse effects of non-renewable energy sources that release harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The shift towards clean energy, characterized by zero or near-zero carbon emissions, stands as an indispensable solution in combating climate change.
Hydrogen emerges as a beacon of hope in the clean energy landscape, particularly when harnessed with renewable energies such as wind or solar power. When these sustainable sources are utilized in electrolysis to produce hydrogen, it yields what is known as ‘green hydrogen.’ This resource boasts a minimal environmental footprint, emitting no greenhouse gases or pollutants during its production.
Moreover, as wind and solar energy are inherently intermittent and challenging to store in their natural forms, hydrogen energy emerges as an efficient solution. It acts as a reservoir capable of storing surplus energy generated from these renewables. This stored energy can then be seamlessly released into the grid precisely when demand calls for it, ensuring no wastage.
The $7 billion in funding that has recently been announced is part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, which aims to straighten the US economy by investing in new and emerging industries, including clean energy and semiconductors, as well as ensuring that the markets are competitive and fair.
With this new investment, seven regional H2Hubs will be launched. These hubs are set to form the foundation of a national clean hydrogen network. This interconnected network will play a pivotal role in significantly reducing carbon emissions across various economic sectors.2
The Clean Hydrogen Hubs Initiative
The Clean Hydrogen Hubs initiative stands as a pioneering force in propelling clean energy solutions to the forefront of the nation’s energy landscape. The majority of the substantial project investment is strategically allocated to fuel green production, specifically focusing on electrolysis-based methods.
By championing this initiative, the United States is poised to transition significantly towards clean energy resources, effectively curbing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. The collective impact of these efforts translates into not only a reduction in environmental harm but also the promise of cleaner, healthier air for every citizen across the country.
The initiative encompasses seven strategic hubs, each chosen for its geographic significance and potential impact:
- Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2)
- Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2
- Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES)
- HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub
- Heartland Hydrogen Hub
- Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen (MachH2
- Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub (PNW H2)
The envisioned Clean Hydrogen Hubs are poised to yield substantial benefits, generating an estimated 3 million metric tons of clean hydrogen annually. This significant output accounts for nearly a third of the ambitious 2030 US clean hydrogen production target.1
Collectively, these seven hubs will play a pivotal role in curbing environmental degradation. Their combined efforts are projected to prevent a staggering 25 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. To put this into perspective, this reduction is equivalent to the yearly emissions of over 5.5 million gasoline-powered cars.1
Clean hydrogen will help many US sectors to reduce their emissions by offering a reliable source of clean energy. This will be especially critical for sectors that are hard to decarbonize, such as transportation, manufacturing, chemical, steel, and cement manufacturing.
While the overall impact of the project is anticipated to be positive, it raises concerns regarding the production methods employed. While some hubs are committed to producing ‘green hydrogen,’ derived entirely from renewable sources, others may resort to ‘blue hydrogen.’
Blue hydrogen production involves the use of fossil fuels, a practice questioned by experts like Robert Howarth, a professor of ecology and environmental biology and a faculty fellow at Cornell’s Atkinson Center for Sustainability.4
Research suggests that blue hydrogen production might have a climate impact comparable to, or even more harmful than, burning fossil fuels directly. Thus, meticulous evaluation and strategic planning are imperative when considering sustainable hydrogen production methods to ensure that new hydrogen technologies align with environmental goals.
Nonetheless, the Clean Hydrogen Hubs initiative represents a pivotal stride towards advancing clean energy and combating climate change within the United States. While apprehensions persist regarding the production of blue and green hydrogen, it undeniably signifies a positive move from fossil fuels towards cleaner alternatives.
References and Further Reading
- Biden-Harris Administration Announces $7 Billion For America’s First Clean Hydrogen Hubs, Driving Clean Manufacturing and Delivering New Economic Opportunities Nationwide [online]. US Department of Energy. Available at: https://www.energy.gov/articles/biden-harris-administration-announces-7-billion-americas-first-clean-hydrogen-hubs-driving (Accessed October 2023)
- Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs [online]. US Department of Energy. Available at: https://www.energy.gov/oced/regional-clean-hydrogen-hubs (Accessed October 2023)
- Cornell expert: Hydrogen hubs too reliant on fossil fuels [online]. Cornell. Available at: https://news.cornell.edu/media-relations/tip-sheets/cornell-expert-hydrogen-hubs-too-reliant-fossil-fuels (Accessed October 2023)