In August 2022, President Joe Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). This bill allocates tens of billions of federal dollars for investment in clean energy initiatives, including renewable hydrogen and renewable natural gas production. The Biden Administration’s push for green energy will allow technology to be developed faster in an area where all fuel sources are needed to meet our country’s decarbonization targets.
The U.S. Department of Energy released a strategic plan outlining what investments will look like and how they will be allocated. The IRA’s most important strategy is reducing the cost of renewable energy, which it accomplishes with new tax incentives that both reduce the cost of developing renewable energy projects and producing renewable energy. The law also makes significant grant money to encourage regional development of renewable hydrogen generation and delivery hubs.
At home in the Northwest, Oregon and Washington have joined forces to take advantage of this federal investment opportunity. Their goal: to take advantage of the Northwest’s hydro, wind and solar generation to give us a strong regional presence of renewable hydrogen. Most of the region’s hydrogen is currently produced as a byproduct of traditional natural gas, rather than using clean sources like our abundant hydro, wind or solar. The IRA will speed this transition. You can learn more about how renewable hydrogen is produced here.
Oregon and Washington already have ambitious climate goals, aiming to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in the next few decades. In order to achieve these deep decarbonization goals, it’s going to require that we utilize our entire energy infrastructure, both gas and electric. The Oregon Department of Energy recently noted that “getting to 80, 90% decarbonization of the grid is feasible, if you want to get that last 10 or 15 or 20%, you need options that include hydrogen.”
Public and private sector stakeholders from both Washington and Oregon recently formed the Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Association, which is developing a hydrogen hub grant proposal to the U.S Department of Energy. This proposal, if approved, would grant the Northwest ample federal funding to produce clean, reliable, and renewable hydrogen across the region.
Hydrogen as a fuel source is already widely used, and it is anticipated to play a much larger role in the future. Its benefits are many. Take, for instance, the transportation sector, which is responsible for 40% of our carbon emissions. The IRA provides significant new federal funds to encourage maritime and trucking companies to transition their diesel engines to hydrogen electric and traditional electric vehicles. Hydrogen is much lighter than gasoline or diesel, burns twice as long, and takes up half as much space. Battery cells with hydrogen are much more immune to cold weather drainage than traditional electric batteries and don’t require charging. Additionally, and most importantly, hydrogen power gives off no emissions; it produces only water.
If all of these benefits can be engineered to work efficiently together, the potential is limitless. The Biden Administration and elected leaders in Washington and Oregon have identified hydrogen as a key fuel source in the decarbonization of the energy and transportation sectors. Leveraging our existing energy infrastructure, federal investment and local collaboration will help make this vision a reality.
Business Manager, UA Local 290