Hydrogen projects involving Southern California Gas and San Diego Gas & Electric – Sempra Energy subsidiaries – are facing opposition from environmental and ratepayer groups, according to comments filed Wednesday at the California Public Utilities Commission.
SoCalGas, SDG&E and Southwest Gas are behind the blending proposal and SoCalGas is planning the hydrogen pipeline system to import the fuel into the Los Angeles Basin.
Burning hydrogen blends in residential and commercial buildings, as envisioned in the blending proposal, is likely incompatible with California’s climate goals and with minimizing household energy burdens and meeting federal air quality standards, the Sierra Club said in comments Wednesday opposing the plan.
Blending hydrogen with natural gas won’t play a meaningful role in decarbonizing buildings, the Sierra Club said. A 5% hydrogen mix with pipeline gas reduces the gas’ carbon intensity by less than 2%, according to the environmental group.
Also, hydrogen blending carries significant safety risks and may be incompatible with existing gas infrastructure and end-use equipment, the Sierra Club said, citing a recent study conducted for the CPUC.
“Given the scale of the research needed to address these concerns, the availability of lower-cost electric alternatives that enable deep decarbonization, and the trajectory of California’s building decarbonization policy toward electric solutions that eliminate on-site climate and criteria pollution, the Commission should not force ratepayers to fund this $35.26 million set of experiments,” the Sierra Club said.
Meanwhile, various groups said SoCalGas failed to provide enough information about its Angles Link pipeline project, such as who would use it, so it may be premature to allow the utility to establish a “memorandum account” for the project’s expenses. The utility would need to get additional approval to recover those costs from ratepayers.
The pipeline proposal is too speculative to warrant opening a memo account for it, Utility Consumers’ Action Network said in a Wednesday filing. SoCalGas’ application is vague on the pipeline’s cost, design, routing, the availability of adequate supplies of green hydrogen and potential customers, according to the ratepayer advocacy group.
“The commission should not be in the business of sanctioning aspirations and speculative ventures into new types of utility service that may or may not have end use customers once the project is completed,” UCAN said, adding SoCalGas should pursue the project through an unregulated affiliate.
The Public Advocates Office at the CPUC on Friday said SoCalGas’ clarification of its proposal was “overly broad, vague, and unresponsive” to questions posed by an administrative law judge at the commission.
“A fundamental flaw in SoCalGas’ application and responses to the clarification ruling's questions is the dearth of evidence that there are green hydrogen sources available to service any potential end-user either now or in the near future,” the office said.
SoCalGas aims to fully decarbonize its operations by 2045.