European Hydrogen Drives US H2

Europe is betting… No.  Europe is planning on making hydrogen fuel a central part of their renewable energy infrastructure.  And here in the States?

Domestic companies, who have withstood the outlandish US investment shortfall in hydrogen fuel cell technology, no longer care.  Recent momentum experienced by Plug Powered Inc., Fuelcell Energy, Ballard Power Systems and Bandwidth Inc. has increased these companies’ total market cap from $6.3B  to $52B in 2020-21.  Most of that gain came in the last 4 months  – partly because of confidence that the US will now take renewable energy seriously and mostly because the rest of the world already has. 

Ditte Juul- Jørgensen, Director General of Energy for the European Commission explains that the EU has earmarked 37% of the Union’s €750 B recovery budget for climate related technology.  This is substantially more than the, yet to be ratified, $35 B of incentives for renewable energy contained within the US recovery bill.  Director General Jørgensen’s 60 minute review of energy policy can be found at the Edward Satlsburg’s George Washington University  Security and Sustainability Forum. She explains that Europe has made a commitment to large scale hydrogen as big part of coal/fossil fuel replacement and electricity storage .

The horizon of a fossil free energy world is upon us.  In my local agricultural Yolo County 1.2 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents are released every year – 3 million barrels of oil a year. Over half from on road transportation with the next largest off road – farm equipment.   Farms require powerful engines and it would take a few thousand hydrogen fuel cell replacements for the county to go all hydrogen.  That’s exactly what companies like Plug Power Inc. do  – unit by unit conversion of large engines to hydrogen. 

To put this in local pocket book terms.  Yolo residents use fourteen barrels of oil annually which costs $700 wholesale today.  The equivalent commercially available amount of hydrogen gas costs about $2,500 today. According to Power Magazine that same hydrogen will cost about $700 in 2030 .  This is what the energy industry calls  price parity –  carbon fuel is nearing obsolescence.

When solar electricity generation was first allowed to touch the grid – it was selling for $10/Watt installed.  Now commercial installations are built for less than $1.00/Watt.  Commercial solar makes Mega Watts of electricity 3 times cheaper than natural gas.  This took 20 years.  We can expect hydrogen parity to take a shorter period of time – because there are more health, social and monetary incentives to do so…thanks to the EU.