With Hydrogen, the Midwest Can Propel the Energy Transition

July 14, 2021

U.S. states are answering the Biden administration’s call to address climate change and reestablish the United States as a leader in the energy transition. States along our nation’s coastlines – like California, New York and Texas – are setting ambitious goals to limit greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean energy investment, and achieve mid-century climate goals.

But America’s heartland has the opportunity to truly be the driving engine of the U.S. energy transition.

The Midwest’s robust manufacturing capabilities, extensive renewable and traditional energy infrastructure, and long-standing intellectual capital make it uniquely placed to serve as a hub for the deployment and acceleration of innovative energy solutions.

And many of those technologies developed in the Midwest are already being deployed. The region has some of the highest wind, solar and carbon-free nuclear generation in the nation. Illinois, for instance, has the most nuclear capacity of any other state with 11 nuclear reactors, which account for more than half of its electricity generation. These carbon-free technologies combined with abundant water supplies from the Great Lakes are the major resources required to produce hydrogen, making the region an ideal production, distribution, and storage center for this technology that can help decarbonize the transportation, industrial, and power generation sectors. Last month, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm launched the Department of Energy’s “Energy Earthshots” Initiative, to accelerate breakthroughs of more abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy solutions within the decade. The first Energy Earthshot—Hydrogen Shot—seeks to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen by 80% to $1 per kilogram (note: a kilogram of hydrogen contains about the same energy as a gallon of gasoline).

And that’s why the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign partnered with Argonne National Laboratory to launch the Midwestern Hydrogen Partnership. As one of the nation’s top research and engineering schools, UIUC has the talent pool to help grow the economy with clean energy jobs.

In the Midwest, we are also uniquely capable of manufacturing fuel cells and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and deploying hydrogen solutions across our industrial sectors. The Midwest is a major manufacturing powerhouse for several vehicle lines, with 75 percent of cars and 60 percent of light-duty trucks currently assembled in the region. Automakers – like General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota – with large manufacturing presences in the Midwest are betting big on FCEVs.

A number of companies in the Midwest are already deploying hydrogen technologies as well. For instance, St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch placed an order for more than 800 hydrogen-electric delivery trucks in 2018 and completed its first beer delivery a year later. Hyzon Motors announced in March it plans to open a new facility near Chicago for high-volume production of membrane electrode assemblies (MEA), key components of fuel cell stacks. Iron ore miner and steelmaker Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., the largest flat-rolled steel supplier in North America, is beginning to integrate hydrogen in its production of hot briquetted iron in order to meet its greenhouse gas reduction commitments. General Motors and Honda established the first joint venture to mass produce an advanced hydrogen fuel cell system at a facility in Michigan in 2017. And in 2019, Indiana truck-engine manufacturer Cummins announced its collaboration with Hyundai to develop fuel cell technologies.

Read more here.

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