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Roadmap to a US Hydrogen Economy

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Charley Rattan's picture
World Hydrogen Leader Charley Rattan Associates

UK based offshore wind & hydrogen corporate advisor and trainer; Faculty member World Hydrogen Leaders. Delivering global hydrogen and offshore wind corporate investment advice, business...

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  • Mar 21, 2020
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Roadmap to a US Hydrogen Economy

Fifty years ago, the US put the first man on the moon. The Apollo 11 mission relied on a hydrogen-powered fuel cell system, which supplied electricity and water for the mission, and on liquid hydrogen as fuel to propel the rockets. Since 1969, America has remained a leader in fuel cell and hydrogen technology, commercializing a wide range of technologies that produce, deliver, store, and utilize hydrogen across applications and sectors.

Today, the hydrogen industry as well as the US are at a crossroads as the country’s energy future is determined. The energy system across the US is evolving. From power generation to transportation, new technologies are gaining share. Companies are grappling with decarbonization, preservation of natural resources, aging infrastructure, energy storage, an evolving regulatory landscape, and new customer demands. The resiliency and reliability of our energy system are growing concerns.

Hydrogen is key to overcoming these challenges. Hydrogen is an energy carrier that cuts across sectors and has multiple benefits. It can be used to store energy over long periods of time and transport energy over large geographies. FCEVs, whether heavy-duty, lightduty, or material-handling vehicles, produce no tailpipe emissions, and hydrogen can be produced with near-zero carbon emitted, even on a lifecycle basis. A vibrant hydrogen industry would maintain US energy leadership and security, create jobs, significantly reduce carbon emissions, and support economic growth.

The time to boost support for hydrogen is now. Decisions and investments made now will have long-term impact. Moreover, many energy infrastructure decisions take a long time to implement. Other countries are laying plans for hydrogen economies, and the US will need to move quickly to continue to lead in this growing industry. US Department of Energy funding for hydrogen and fuel cells has ranged from approximately $100 million to $280 million per year over the last decade, with approximately $150 million per year since 2017.iv

Other countries are also investing heavily in hydrogen. For example, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry has announced hydrogen funding of approximately $560 million for 2019.v China has announced hydrogen transport industry investments of more than $17 billion through 2023. In Europe, Germany’s investment includes $110 million annually to fund research laboratories to test new hydrogen technologies for industrial-scale applications.vi Investment is needed to lay the groundwork for hydrogen solutions.

Capital is required to build foundational hydrogen infrastructure and companies need the right incentives to invest in low-carbon hydrogen solutions. Regulatory barriers and appropriate codes and standards need to be addressed to enable large-scale commercialization and a robust, reliable supply chain. Funding is required for more research, development, demonstration, and deployment for hydrogen technologies, to improve competitiveness and performance. Directing capital to hydrogen is key to enabling its growth in the US. 

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