In June, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced an Energy Earthshots Initiative designed to speed innovation, research and deployment of clean energy technologies at scale.

“First up: Hydrogen Shot, which sets an ambitious yet achievable cost target to accelerate innovations and spur demand of clean hydrogen. Clean hydrogen is a game changer. It will help decarbonize high-polluting heavy-duty and industrial sectors, while delivering good-paying clean energy jobs and realizing a net-zero economy by 2050,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said in a release.

Clean hydrogen, or green hydrogen, is produced using electrolyzers powered by renewable energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen and is therefore a zero-emissions fuel. Less than 0.1% of hydrogen today is produced using electrolysis, according to the International Energy Agency. Most hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels — largely natural gas. 

According to the DOE, clean hydrogen currently costs about $5 per kilogram, whereas hydrogen produced from natural gas is about $1.50 per kilogram. 

“We want clean hydrogen to beat that price,” Granholm said, as the DOE aims to reduce the price of clean hydrogen by 80% to $1 per kilogram in just one decade. “Across the suite of clean energy solutions we now have, I personally think hydrogen is one of the most promising and exciting.”

Funding and projects

In July, the DOE announced that its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will supply $36 million and the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management will supply $16.5 million for the Hydrogen Energy Earthshot, bringing total funding to $52.5 million.

The projects include scaling efforts and R&D for:

Electrolyzers used to produce green hydrogen.
Hydrogen supply chain components and fuel cell technologies.
Hydrogen storage technologies.
Fuel cell subsystems and components.
Analyses for hydrogen production pathways, storage and fuel cell systems.

Among 31 projects reported, the DOE’s recent $52.5 million in funding includes a project with hydrogen production company Plug Power (NASDAQ: PLUG). Plug Power is making investments to expand its supply of green hydrogen.

“Plug believes that deep decarbonization will not be realized without green hydrogen,” Plug Power CTO Tim Cortes told FreightWaves. “The Hydrogen Earthshot effort recognizes the urgency for innovation to decarbonize the industrial, transport and other hard-to-abate sectors. We are committed to advancing the green hydrogen ecosystem to help achieve our climate goals.”

Why hydrogen?

While multiple industries see potential in using clean hydrogen to decarbonize, the transportation and freight industries’ heavy reliance on fossil fuels can make emission-reduction efforts more difficult. 

“Clean hydrogen is a flexible low-emissions fuel with countless applications across every sector of our economy. It will be vital to achieving clean energy targets, especially in some of the hardest-to-clean sectors of the American economy,” said U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko of New York in a release.

Electric vehicles are growing in popularity for last-mile deliveries and shorter-distance routes. However, electric vehicles have weight and range limitations, making them less conducive to long-haul trucking. Many experts and analysts believe that hydrogen is a better solution for long-haul trucking and has potential to effectively reduce emissions in the trucking industry.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Alyssa Sporrer.

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