The Department of Energy outlined its high-level vision for the creation of a series of “hydrogen hubs,” which will receive a total of $8 billion over five years through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, in a Notice of Intent, or NOI, released Monday.
Jobs, equity and technological diversity will be the focus of the hydrogen hub initiative, according to the NOI, which encourages prospective applications to reach out to disadvantaged communities and find ways to differentiate themselves.
Advocates and analysts were generally encouraged by the notice’s focus on using hydrogen to decarbonize hard-to-abate industrial sectors, but expressed ongoing concern that hydrogen from fossil fuels and other “misguided projects” could distract from long-term climate goals.
Industries and communities interested in securing a chunk of the $8 billion in federal funding up for grabs for hydrogen development projects got their first glimpse of what it will take to write a winning application with Monday’s release of a notice describing the DOE’s intended selection criteria.
Although the details could be subject to change, the notice of intent indicates the DOE currently plans to designate 6-10 hydrogen hubs around the country, with each receiving up to $1-1.25 billion in federal funding. Preference will be given to teams that are led by a single entity, but include “numerous key partners or sub recipients that will bring together diverse technologies.”
Diversity of technology is a theme throughout the notice, with DOE indicating it plans to select at least one hub focused on the production of hydrogen derived from fossil fuels, one focused on renewable energy and one focused on nuclear energy. The DOE also wants to see demonstrations of a variety of potential end-use applications, such as industry and transportation, and puts an emphasis on geographic diversity as well.
Some of those interested in filing an application expressed enthusiasm at the release of the criteria, believing the notice, combined with their own work to date, would allow them to expedite the process of becoming industry leaders.
“The Center for Houston’s Future, which has been leading an effort to develop a detailed clean hydrogen hub roadmap and has been creating an inclusive stakeholder process, should be well positioned, along with a number of industry, nonprofit and academic partners, to become the locus for clean hydrogen hub activities across the state of Texas,” said Brett Perlman, the center's CEO. “Our research shows that under the DOE’s criteria, Houston is a logical place for a clean hydrogen hub."
But the notice also emphasizes the need for applicants to show their potential to create jobs and foster environmental equity, and an accompanying announcement from the DOE expressed particular interest in the use of hydrogen to reduce carbon emissions from hard-to-abate industrial sectors.
"Though just an initial notice of intent, this is an encouraging sign the Department of Energy will work to ensure hydrogen projects prioritize the cleanest methods of production and hardest-to-electrify end uses," said Alexa Thompson, federal policy manager at RMI. "Strategic application of hydrogen will ensure we can meet our industrial and energy security needs, stay on a pathway toward our climate goals, and spur local economic development.”
The Sierra Club, while focused on electrification, also expressed hope the hydrogen hub initiative would concentrate on industrial emissions.
“Federal investments in hydrogen should focus on hard to abate uses such as industrial processes and certain transportation applications,” said Bill Corcoran, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. But he said funding projects such as hydrogen derived from fossil fuels "distracts from the important role hydrogen can play."