Federal aid shows hydrogen is here to stay
Can reduce emissions without appliance switchovers
IN A RESIDENTIAL neighborhood on suburban Long Island, a clean energy technology that is both old and new could be the answer to eliminating carbon emissions from the entire economy across the country. In Hempstead, a project called HyGrid will blend green hydrogen with renewable natural gas to safely and reliably heat homes, while slashing emissions. The project will cleanly heat just 800 or more homes for now, but successful pilots like this foreshadow what might be on the horizon throughout the US.
Hydrogen has been touted as the long-awaited solution to curbing climate change, but widespread adoption has been a slow crawl. Now, tucked into the 700-plus-page Inflation Reduction Act signed by the president, hydrogen stands to benefit more than any other clean energy technology. The legislation could result in hydrogen becoming cost-competitive and even less expensive than fossil fuels by 2030.
Tax credits in the new law, combined with funding from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, indicate hydrogen might be finally catching on. None of this has happened overnight. National Grid has advanced this technology for years through more than two dozen research projects with academic and industry partners because we believe this is a fuel that will keep the Earth from getting warmer. Bill Gates has even called hydrogen the Swiss Army knife of cutting emissions.
Despite a lack of widespread hydrogen distribution, the gas network in the United States has seen hydrogen before. Prior to the advent of natural gas in the 1950s, some systems had approximately 50 percent hydrogen blend flowing in the system. Today, homes on the Hawaiian Islands safely receive heat from hydrogen blends.
None of the recent advancements would matter if hydrogen weren’t a clean fuel. Today, it is possible to produce hydrogen with very limited or even zero emissions, which is called clean hydrogen created from renewables like solar, hydropower or wind.
Long-term, a hydrogen ecosystem that includes blending hydrogen with renewable natural gas into the existing gas networks; decarbonizing campuses, commercial buildings and large industrial customers with 100 percent hydrogen fuel, and generating power with clean hydrogen when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, will be critical to overcoming the threat of climate change.
Will Hazelip is president of National Grid Ventures, Northeast US.