Renewable Hydrogen

To achieve California’s economy-wide decarbonization goals, California must explore alter-natives to fossil fuels where electrification is not practical or cost-effective. Renewable hydrogen has the potential to fill specific niches in the transportation, electricity, and industrial sectors, and can help meet California’s growing reliability need as a form of long duration or seasonal storage for renewable energy.

Recent Developments:

CEERT’s Maia Leroy and Benner Mullin have been collaborating on a paper identifying several aspects of hydrogen, including hydrogen feedstocks and end-uses, current industry tracking and reporting, and the policy framework for more hydrogen opportunities.

Hydrogen via green electrolysis is emerging as a promising renewable energy form with an abundance of applications. Today, hydrogen is largely used in the manufacturing and refining of several resources, including ammonia, methanol, and steel, and the majority of it is created using steam methane reforming (SMR) with fossil fuels. It may also be used as a fuel for combustion to power turbines, or fed into a fuel cell to power anything from small electronics to heavy-duty vehicles. It can be stored for long periods until needed to power such mechanisms, and therefore is a suitable battery replacement.

There are several not-insurmountable issues with hydrogen, including the possibility of it emitting nitrogen oxides (NOx) if combustion is not controlled, or the costly upgrades that would be needed for a large-scale hydrogen pipeline. Most of these problems can be mitigated or avoided with logistical solutions, explored further in the paper.

Currently, the lack of infrastructure keeps clean, widespread hydrogen technology at a premature stage, though this will likely take a turn for the better with recent budget incentives for hydrogen at both the state and federal levels. The 2022-23 California Governor’s budget proposes a $100 million general fund over two years to advance the production of green hydrogen, and a tax credit, totaling $100 million per year for three years, for entities opting in to develop green technologies (which includes hydrogen to reduce the use of natural gas). The Federal Infrastructure Bill additionally allocates $9.5 billion for “clean hydrogen development,” although its classification of clean hydrogen may disagree with that of others. Due to this elusive definition and other controversial practices in state energy policy, it is clear that there is much improvement to be made.

More details on these and other topics are covered in Leroy and Mullin’s paper, available upon request from Maia Leroy (maia@ceert.org).