The nation’s coming energy transformation presents a complicated set of opportunities and challenges that will require a fine balance between government, industry, and the marketplace.
“Pathways to Commercial Liftoff” is a series of three reports by the Department of Energy (DOE) analyzing three key technologies of the energy transition, and providing a roadmap for their development and integration in the coming years.
Three promising technologies, hydrogen energy, advanced nuclear energy, and long-duration energy storage (LDES) are the focus of DOE’s new “Liftoff” reports, which seek to “catalyze more rapid and coordinated action” in the commercialization of these technologies.
The United States has committed itself, through both international and domestic policy, to combat climate change and decarbonize our economy. International agreements like the Paris Accord have guided domestic policy, as the U.S. has committed to achieving a net-zero emission economy by 2050. In that pursuit, the country has made billions of dollars available for clean energy technology and projects, primarily through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
Though billions in federal funds have been earmarked for initial development, the common need for each of these new technologies, according to the Liftoff reports, is even more money. In fact, cumulative investment needs could top an additional $200 billion by 2030 alone.
While nuclear and LDES will likely grow in commercial feasibility and deployment nationally and within Pennsylvania, hydrogen energy could have the biggest impact for the state.
As part of the BIL, $7 billion in federal funds was earmarked to establish between six and 10 regional clean hydrogen hubs across the country, and Pennsylvania is a contender for one of the hubs. Plans to bring a hydrogen hub to the state are supported by industry and state leaders, and Pennsylvania-based projects have remained on the short list of possible locations released by the DOE in January.
However, as the Liftoff report explains, there are several factors that could prevent the scaling of hydrogen energy more generally, ranging from a lack of infrastructure to the availability of resources and human capital. More specifically, the report offers seven areas of focus, all of which would accelerate hydrogen development, including investments made into distribution and storage infrastructure, supply chains, workforce development, and technical research. Development and standardization of regulations and processes that will govern the “hydrogen economy” also must be put into place.
All of this must happen rapidly, as the first clean hydrogen hub projects receiving start-up funding are expected to be announced later this year. The full “Pathways to Commercialization” reports can be found here.