On August 9th, the U.S. Senate passed The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a bipartisan effort to pump $1 trillion in new infrastructure spending into the economy. Why is this important here in the Pacific Northwest? Because the bill authorizes $8 billion in new funding to accelerate the deployment of clean hydrogen fuels, such as “green hydrogen” which uses renewable energy like wind and solar as a production source. Here’s an explainer video on how it works in the Pacific Northwest.
Our region is looking for ways to decarbonize the economy and achieving this objective is going to require a lot of solutions. While some talk exclusively about electrification, decarbonization will need to utilize the Pacific Northwest’s 75,000 miles of available pipelines to deliver hydrogen and involve the highly-skilled employees that maintain them. Because it converts wind and solar electricity to gas, green hydrogen acts like battery storage for excess renewable electricity. It’s one way gas and electricity work together to deliver reliable energy across the region.
The Biden administration and a bipartisan coalition in Congress prioritized this new technology because large-scale green hydrogen projects are being announced everywhere but the United States. Australia, China, Europe and South America all have announced projects ranging between 1 and 14 gigawatts. It’s federal investment for projects of this size that created economies of scale that drove down production costs in wind and solar. Cost is one of the primary impediments to expanding the availability of green hydrogen, which is why it’s encouraging to see this $8 billion investment in America.
Right now, green hydrogen is proving itself in smaller projects, and those are becoming more common. Several have been announced here in the Pacific Northwest, the most recent being a 20 Mw plant in southern Oregon that will use wind, solar and hydropower as its production source. Other projects have been announced by NW Natural, Eugene Water and Electric Board and Clark Public Utility District as well as a partnership to explore development of green hydrogen production, storage and transportation facilities between Puget Sound Energy and Mitsubishi Power.
Progress is rarely the result of a binary choice: electricity or gas, for instance. It’s almost always achieved through partnerships that capture the benefits of multiple solutions. This is going to be true of the Pacific Northwest’s long-term goal of decarbonizing the economy to address climate change. In a region known for innovation and collaboration, it’s a natural path for us to continue to make energy progress.