In a significant move toward establishing a low-carbon hydrogen economy, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced a $7 billion investment across seven Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs (H2Hubs). This development, according to Wood Mackenzie, marks a crucial step in achieving ambitious clean energy goals set by President Biden, including a 100% clean electrical grid by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
These H2Hubs are designed to hasten the transition to a cleaner energy landscape, with a primary focus on reducing the cost of clean hydrogen production to $1 per kilogram by 2030. This cost competitiveness with conventional hydrogen is vital for wider adoption, ensuring communities nationwide benefit from clean energy investments and employment opportunities.
The seven selected H2Hubs are expected to collectively produce three million metric tons per annum (Mtpa) of hydrogen, significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 25 Mtpa upon full operation. These hubs, strategically dispersed across various regions, target different sectors and challenges, such as heavy-duty transportation, renewable energy use, power generation, and carbon storage.
While each hub has been awarded an initial $20 million to develop project plans over the next 12 to 18 months, the full $7 billion funding is yet to be distributed. Incremental funding will be provided as each hub completes various development phases over the next eight to 12 years.
Wood Mackenzie analysts note that, despite this positive development, the selected hubs are projected to contribute only 30% toward the 10 Mtpa hydrogen supply capacity objective outlined in the U.S. National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap by 2030. Challenges include uncertainty in low-carbon hydrogen project announcements and the current infeasibility of the $1/kg cost target for green hydrogen.
In this context, Wood Mackenzie estimates around 4 Mtpa of hydrogen supply by 2030. It’s also crucial to recognize that the real impetus for this endeavor will come from private investments, with $40 billion expected to be catalyzed by the initial DOE funding.
Wood Mackenzie further emphasizes the need for guidance from the Treasury regarding carbon intensity accounting, particularly for hubs using renewable energy for electrolysis, under the Inflation Reduction Act. These H2Hubs are seen as a critical first step in the journey toward a low-carbon hydrogen economy, with broader adoption supported by legislative measures and demand support programs in the future.