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New Mexico Governor's proposed hydrogen hub is dirty methane!

Cynthia Mitchell's picture
Principal Energy Economics, Inc

Cynthia Mitchell is a 40-year veteran in energy policy and utility regulation, an expert on utility integrated resource planning, focused on sustainability through distributed energy resources...

  • Member since 2021
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  • Dec 10, 2021
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New Mexico’s Gov. Lujan Grisham has said a hydrogen bill will be a priority in the coming New Mexico legislative session. Unfortunately most hydrogen production presents a grave climate threat rather than a solution. 

The state has released a "discussion draft" of hydrogen legislation. While renewable-powered "green" hydrogen could be important in some specific hard-to-decarbonize applications in the hydrogen legislation. While renewable-powered "green" hydrogen could be important in some specific hard-to-decarbonize applications in the future, this draft incentivizes the worst, dirtiest and most dangerous types of hydrogen. 


Most of the hydrogen currently produced — and all of what is proposed in New Mexico — is produced from methane gas, and the process is powered by gas as well. Hydrogen already causes 3-4% of the world's greenhouse pollution. Methane-fueled hydrogen used to run gas plants has been shown to produce more climate pollution than even directly burning coal or gas because of methane leakage and carbon emissions. 

Her agencies are asking for feedback on the bill. I sent the following message to the Governor – emotional and personal. She knows the facts.


Dear Governor, 
 
I was shocked and deeply disturbed as I read the discussion draft of your proposed hydrogen legislation. As proposed, this bill would add to methane-based greenhouse gasses via gray hydrogen production, at a level greater than directly burning fossil fuels at power plants.
 
Without the proposed tax credits this would not be financially feasible. Your proposed hydrogen hub simply keeps gas fired generation going longer and stronger than the economics dictate. Renewable wind and solar generation, paired with battery storage, is at or below the total cost of gas generation. 
 
Instead of being the environmental leader to the world on methane emission reductions, you will be pegged as a hypocritical politician tied at the hip to the gas and oil industry. 
 
You are capable of ever so much more than this. You deserve a better legacy than the one your hydrogen hub will bestow. The citizens of this state love and respect you. Please reconsider this fool-hardy move. 

You have at your fingertips the ability to create a new source of state revenues via the export of renewable energy -- solar and wind -- throughout the region.  This is the future you want for your beloved state, and your rightful legacy.

Be strong, rise up, and say NO to the gas and oil industry!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 10, 2021

Do you think hydrogen will always be too intertwined with fossil fuels, or is this just a matter of being too soon to really ramp up given the lack of green hydrogen capabilities? 

Cynthia Mitchell's picture
Cynthia Mitchell on Dec 17, 2021

Good question Matt! I am no hydrogen expert, but it seems that the natural gas industry is pushing hard to intertwine hydrogen with gas. I don't know how long it will take for big electrolyzers to be more available, or for there to be more surplus in the supplies of renewable electricity. My understanding is that transporting green hydrogen is tricky. It's a highly flammable gas that takes up a lot of space and can make steel pipes and welds brittle and prone to failure.

 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 10, 2021

Cynthia, it's true that New Mexico's hydrogen hub would indeed incentivize the worst, dirtiest and most dangerous types of hydrogen.

But your faith in wind and solar generation, paired with battery storage or not, is misplaced. Not a single solar/battery storage facility in the U.S. charges its batteries from the solar farm to which they're "paired". They are charged from a grid mix, increasing the emissions associated with that mix by anywhere from 104 to 407 kg/MWh due to inherent resistance and grid inefficiencies. They are built adjacent to each other solely to appear "green", without any redeeming environmental value, and remain entirely dependent on gas-fired power plants for backup when they aren't available.


That you value facts is rare, and appreciated. Here's another you should know: wind and solar, paired with gas generation by necessity, will force us to remain dependent on it indefinitely. They are neither economical nor renewable, and are no less tied to the gas and oil industry than hydrogen.

These well-intended but misunderstood notions about wind and solar are more dangerous than climate denial.

Cynthia Mitchell's picture
Cynthia Mitchell on Dec 17, 2021

Really interesting information Bob! I want to learn more about what you said about batteries not charging from solar farms but from the grid. Do you have any links you could share? 

Thanks so much! Cyntha

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 18, 2021

"Do you have any links you could share?"

Cynthia, determining the source of energy for California's storage projects turns out to be a frustrating endeavor. But from an owner's point of view, it would make no sense to limit charging options to only when the sun is shining, and/or wind is blowing. Your investment would be worthless 3/4 of every day, on average.
 

In 2019 I called 8minute Energy, owners of the Eland 1 & 11 Solar & Storage Center north of Los Angeles, and told the receptionist I had a technical question. "What is the question in regards to?", she asked. When I explained, she said, "Good question. Let me see if I can find someone to answer that for you." After waiting ten minutes, I hung up.
 

In May 2020 I saw an article, "Large battery systems are often paired with renewable energy power plants", on the website of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (eia.gov). Because the article didn't specifically address the source of energy for the systems, I emailed the author and asked.

He responded promptly by phone, and had more-or-less the same answer. "Good question!", he said. "Obviously, that's going to make a difference for the environmental value of battery storage, but in our survey we didn't ask."

Searching again just now I found a follow-up, Most planned U.S. battery storage additions in next three years to be paired with solar, from September 2021. The author writes:

"At some solar PV co-located plants, the batteries can charge directly from the onsite solar generator when electricity demand and prices are low. They can then discharge electricity to the grid when electricity demand is higher or when solar generation is unavailable, such as at night."

I will email the author and ask how he knows, because he didn't say.

Though it seems to be a common assumption they can operate that way, I'm skeptical. The largest battery storage facility in the world, the Moss Landing Storage Project, is built adjacent to the fourth-largest gas plant in California - and the nearest utility-scale solar farm, Quinto Solar PV Station, is 60 miles away. Thus, it's safe to assume any electricity from the Moss Landing Storage Project is ~250 kgCO2/MWh dirtier than the output of a gas plant - and obviously, increasing emissions was not what California's "solar + storage" effort was supposed to accomplish.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 1, 2022

Another followup - Author Vikram Linga hasn't responded, either.

Until I see evidence that at least one paired solar and storage facilities is storing exclusively solar energy, my assumption none are is based on economics; the assumption they are is based on idle speculation - a hallmark of renewable energy from the start.

As the disastrous effects of climate change multiply, so must intolerance of the fantasy renewable energy offers a solution. We're running out of time.

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