by Joel M. Rinebold, Ph.D., Director of Energy Initiatives,
Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology
Connecticut is actively preparing to establish a “Regional Hydrogen Hub” in collaboration with Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. Developing this regional clean energy program is possible due to the creation of the U.S. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed by Congress and signed by the President on November 15, 2021. This Act authorizes investment in U.S. infrastructure, including hydrogen infrastructure.
The designation as a Hydrogen Hub allows Connecticut to work with neighboring states to develop clean energy applications with technology made by our workforce, with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. The goal is to establish a regional network of producers and consumers with a connective infrastructure that not only produces hydrogen from multiple energy sources but also demonstrates diverse uses for renewable fuel. The Hub also creates training and employment opportunities throughout the region.
Hydrogen, the most abundant chemical element on the planet, can be produced by separating water into pure hydrogen and oxygen. It is now possible to commercialize the separation process to produce hydrogen from surplus electricity generated from offshore wind during off-peak times when this surplus is not needed. The result: production of clean, renewable energy, storage of surplus energy for increased reliability, and creation of clean energy jobs.
A shift to a new energy economy has happened before: over 100 years ago, there was a move to use a new energy carrier called electricity. Topics on production, use, transmission, cost, reliability, and safety were once vigorously debated by well-known scientists of the time, including Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla.
We now know electricity to be an indispensable energy carrier for stationary power, lighting, heating, and most recently, transportation with electric vehicles. Hydrogen applications include heat and power for telecommunications, manufacturing, data management, food production, healthcare, and public safety. Applications for hydrogen-powered transportation include vehicle fleets, materials handling, trucking, aviation, and shipping. Existing natural gas infrastructure can also be targeted for gradual decarbonization with hydrogen blending without the high cost of constructing entirely new infrastructure and without abandoning investment in the infrastructure we use now. Moreover, consistent with the Infrastructure Act, investments in clean energy, increased energy reliability, jobs, and can prioritize economic development for development in cities and distressed communities where most Americans live.
Connecticut is well prepared and technically endowed as a leader in this clean energy economy. The state now maintains nearly half of the region’s $1.4 billion in revenues and investment, almost half of the region’s 1,200 company supply chain, almost half of all the region’s 6,500 jobs, and nearly half of the region’s $615 M labor income for the hydrogen and fuel cell industry. This economic impact is significant, making Connecticut the epicenter of research and development, manufacturing of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, and a global exporter of clean energy technologies needed for long-term growth and economic development.
Connecticut appears ready and able to lead the Northeast into a Clean Energy Hydrogen Hub.
Joel M. Rinebold, Ph.D., is the Director of Energy Initiatives at the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, where he administers both the Connecticut Hydrogen Fuel Cell Coalition and the Northeast Electrochemical Energy Storage Cluster.