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June 16, 2021

DOE Launches Energy Earthshot to Spur Low Cost, Clean Hydrogen

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DOE LAUNCHES ENERGY EARTHSHOT TO SPUR LOW COST, CLEAN HYDROGEN

On June 7, 2021, Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm launched the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Earthshots initiative. This Earthshots program aims to accelerate breakthroughs in net-zero carbon technologies in the United States and around the world, while creating clean energy jobs and achieving the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of a net-zero carbon emission economy by 2050.[1]

Hydrogen: The First Earthshot

The first Energy Earthshot is known as the “Hydrogen Shot.” As our other recent publications have explained, hydrogen is expected to play a key role in energy transition because of its energy density, relative ease of production, transportation and storage, adaptability to existing industrial applications and infrastructure and absence of greenhouse gas emissions at the point of use. It is a natural early policy focus for the DOE.

The Hydrogen Earthshot will seek to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen by 80 percent to $1 per kilogram in one decade.[2] Currently, hydrogen from renewable energy costs approximately $5 per kilogram in the United States.[3] The Hydrogen Shot will aim to establish the foundation for clean energy deployment in the Biden-Harris Administration’s American Jobs Plan in the areas of climate science, innovation and research and development (R&D).[4]

Achieving these targets would help the United States tackle the climate crisis and more quickly reach the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of a net-zero carbon emissions economy.[5] If the Hydrogen Shot achieves its 80 percent cost reduction goal for American produced hydrogen, it would support significant increases in hydrogen production through renewables, nuclear and thermal conversion pathways and put America in a position to compete globally in the clean hydrogen market.[6]

Research and Development

The DOE has committed to propelling next-generation technologies in key energy sectors.[7] Secretary Granholm forecasted a $23 trillion global market in clean energy transition by 2030.[8] In the Administration’s view, this could help rebuild the American economy, build new businesses, and create millions of jobs.[9] Additionally, according to a study conducted in 2020 by a group of companies, with the appropriate policies and private sector scale up, by 2050, the U.S. hydrogen economy could grow to an estimated $750 billion per year in revenue and 3.4 million jobs. If achieved, this could lead to a 16 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.[10]

Other efforts are also underway to address issues of technology scale-up, manufacturing and supply chains, hydrogen safety, and codes and standards to aid achieving the goal of widespread adoption of hydrogen. In the transportation industry, the Hydrogen Shot has a focus on long haul trucks, hydrogen aircraft and hydrogen watercraft.[11]

DOE’s H2@Scale

The DOE’s research and development efforts are described in H2@Scale[12] – a DOE initiative that provides the vision for enabling the large-scale production, delivery, storage, use of hydrogen, revenue opportunities, cost reduction and emissions reduction. The goal of H2@Scale is for clean hydrogen to be both affordably produced and delivered for decarbonizing end uses that are practical from an economic and logistical perspective.

The DOE’s Hydrogen Program includes efforts to examine the available options for potential hydrogen production, demand and utilization in the United States along with environmental impacts and tradeoffs. These analyses have shown the availability of locations for hydrogen production while also showing the location and quantities of renewable and fossil energy resources throughout the United States.[13]

Green and Blue Hydrogen

Much of the economic outlook for new and more sustainable hydrogen sources has been aimed towards green hydrogen (i.e. hydrogen produced using renewable electricity combined with water electrolysis).[14] However, we expect that the U.S. hydrogen economy will comprise diverse energy sources for many years to come and specifically include fossil fuel generated hydrogen with carbon capture (so-called “blue hydrogen”). Under the Hydrogen Shot, there could be support for both blue hydrogen as well as for reclaimed hydrogen from wastes.[15]

Industry Reaction

There has been some doubt in the energy industry regarding the ability to reduce the cost of “green hydrogen” to competitive levels in a short period of time.[16] However, the DOE seems optimistic about the future of hydrogen, choosing it as the first focus of the Energy Earthshots initiative.[17] Hydrogen Forward, a coalition of 11 companies, has expressed support for the Administration’s program, “hydrogen is a key technology in the energy transition to address climate change and create jobs. Policy support, including programs like the Department of Energy’s ‘Hydrogen Shot,’ is what we need to ensure hydrogen can decarbonise the difficult-to-abate sectors like transportation and industry as quickly as possible.”[18][19] Additionally, companies committed to net-zero goals and engaged in finding clean energy solutions such as Air Liquide USA and Plug Power support clean hydrogen initiatives with tax credits for clean hydrogen production.[20]

DOE Request for Information

The DOE’s Hydrogen Program has issued a Request for Information (RFI) with the intent of obtaining public input in support of the Hydrogen Earthshot. DOE is requesting information on viable hydrogen demonstrations on the following clean-energy related categories:

  • Hydrogen Production, Resources and Infrastructure
  • End Users for Hydrogen in the Region, Cost and Value Propositions
  • Greenhouse Gas and Pollutant Emissions Reduction Potential
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI), Jobs and Environmental Justice
  • Science and Innovation Needs and Challenges

Responses to DOE’s RFI are due July 7, 2021, by 5 pm ET.[21] The DOE is not providing financial support as part of the RFI.

Special thanks to summer associate Chanel Holmes who contributed to this publication.

Footnotes

[1]  U.S. Department of Energy. June 2021. “Secretary Granholm Launches Energy Earthshots Initiative to Accelerate Breakthroughs Toward a Net-Zero Economy.”
[2]  CleanTechnica. June 2021. “It’s Official: US Juices Clean (Or Green) Hydrogen Race With New Energy Earthshots.”
[3]  U.S. Department of Energy. June 2021. “Secretary Granholm Launches Energy Earthshots Initiative to Accelerate Breakthroughs Toward a Net-Zero Economy.”
[4]  U.S. Department of Energy. April 2021. “How the American Jobs Plan Will Advance America’s Energy and Competitiveness Priorities.
[5]  U.S. Department of Energy. June 2021. “Secretary Granholm Launches Energy Earthshots Initiative to Accelerate Breakthroughs Toward a Net-Zero Economy.”
[6]  Id.
[7]  Id.
[8]  U.S. Department of Energy. April 2021. “Remarks as Delivered by Secretary Granholm at President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate.”
[9]  AP News. April 2021. “Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Economy Could Support Millions of Jobs by 2050.”
[10]  Id.
[11]  CleanTechnica. June 2021. “It’s Official: US Juices Clean (Or Green) Hydrogen Race With New Energy Earthshots.”
[12]  U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office. 2020. “H2@Scale,”
[13]  U.S. Department of Energy. November 2020. “Department of Energy Hydrogen Program Plan.”
[14]  CleanTechnica. June 2021. “It’s Official: US Juices Clean (Or Green) Hydrogen Race With New Energy Earthshots.”
[15]  Id.
[16]  Id.
[17]  Id.
[18]  H2 View. June 2021. “US DOE to slash cost of clean hydrogen by 80% to $1 this decade.”
[19]  Cision PR Newswire. February 2021. “Hydrogen Forward” Coalition formed to Advance Hydrogen in the U.S. 
[20]  IHS Markit. June 2021. “US DOE takes an “Energy Earthshot” on clean hydrogen.”
[21]  U.S. Department of Energy. June 2021. “Secretary Granholm Launches Energy Earthshots Initiative to Accelerate Breakthroughs Toward a Net-Zero Economy

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