The US steps on the accelerator of its hydrogen roadmap

1 August, 2023

The United States launched its ‘US National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap’ for hydrogen development in June, a plan that matches the European Union’s commitment to the hydrogen REPowerEU programme: to reach a production of 10 million tonnes of hydrogen by 2030.

The hydrogen strategy and roadmap will be funded by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a major spending bill that will make investments to reduce the deficit and fight inflation while taking historic actions to combat climate change and strengthen the country’s economic and energy security. At 370 billion US dollars, it represents the largest investment in US history to achieve the goal of sustainability.

This plan matches the EU’s commitment with REPowerEU to reach 10 million tonnes of hydrogen production by 2030

With this strategy, the US wants to provide a framework to promote the production, storage and use of renewable hydrogen that can additionally create up to 100,000 new jobs within seven years.

One of its targets is hydrogen to account for 14% of US energy demand by 2050. With incentives of 3 US dollars per kilogram, it aims to create a framework to accelerate the deployment and development of renewable hydrogen to produce 10 million tonnes by 2030, 20 million tonnes by 2040 and 50 million tonnes by 2050.

Challenges and solutions to achieve these goals

The US faces challenges such as the lack of a distribution infrastructure, the lack of large-scale manufacturing, cost-related challenges, as well as the durability, reliability and availability of a complete supply chain.

To address these challenges, the roadmap, which has been developed by state agencies such as NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency, along with the Federal Departments of the Executive Office of the President, Energy, Interior, Labour, Defence, Transportation, Agriculture, Commerce and the State Department, is focusing on three strategies:

1. Target sectors that are difficult to decarbonise through other methods such as electrification, e.g., heavy industry or transport. Renewable hydrogen has a key role to play in this endeavour and needs to be valued in order to meet emission reduction targets.

2. Reducing the cost of hydrogen production and delivery through advances in technology, increased production and improvements in the supply chain. The US strategy envisages that, in addition to cost, the lack of distribution infrastructure and the lack of large-scale manufacturing are two major challenges. Among the proposed measures is the financing of green hydrogen for industries with high emissions, such as steel production or heavy transport.

3. Establish Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs to develop a transmission infrastructure to facilitate market take-off. These hubs will focus on developing regional networks to promote the production, transmission, storage and consumption of clean hydrogen. Regional networks will boost scalability by reducing transmission and infrastructure costs, while also creating opportunities for equity, inclusion and sustainability.

One of its targets is hydrogen to account for 14% of US energy demand by 2050

The US administration is relying on its strength of innovation to bring together national laboratories, industry and academic institutions. Thus, the hydrogen roadmap promotes a multi-faceted approach to implement large-scale strategies and take steps towards achieving the production of 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen by 2030:

1. Increased investment in research and development to reduce costs to achieve economies of scale within a decade. This means increasing funding for clean hydrogen projects, but also for innovation projects and collaborative programmes between organisations.

2. Construction of production, storage and distribution infrastructures, expanding the current network of gas pipelines and promoting the creation of charging stations for transport.

3. Consideration of regional factors, such as resource availability, to expand hydrogen production. The focus is on concentrating efforts on hydrogen production and its use in proximity, reducing transmission and infrastructure costs.

4. Encouraging public-private partnerships to share knowledge, resources and best practices to accelerate the development of hydrogen technologies

Political support, the regulatory framework and financial incentives will play a crucial role

This requires a coordinated effort from different actors, whereby political support, the regulatory framework and financial incentives will play a crucial role. The 9.5 billion US dollar investment and incentives committed in the Inflation Reduction Act of August 2022 will undoubtedly be an important incentive.

The US hydrogen strategy aims not only to create a strong renewable hydrogen sector, but also to strengthen the country’s energy independence, increasing energy security and creating new opportunities for sustainable development.