North Carolina’s responsible energy portfolio includes H2

By Grant Millin

North Carolina is ready for fuel cells and hydrogen fueling stations. The next several weeks are an important period for anyone interested in expanding North Carolina’s energy innovation options and climate response. Hydrogen is clearly part of the solution.

Hydrogen solutions are in a new market position from a decade ago.

Combined with North Carolina’s Volkswagen settlement distribution, N.C. House Bill 589 “Competitive Energy Solutions for NC” left a back door for installing our first public-access, hydrogen-fueling stations. There is a section in HB 589 covering an energy-storage study. The current players behind this $150,000 study believed they had a “hydrogen excluding” definition of energy storage locked. If they do not include hydrogen, the study will be another unnecessarily biased policy outcome.

But more is needed. To stimulate deployment of CleanTech hydrogen use in North Carolina I am willing to help organize the N.C. Zero Emission Vehicle and Grid Fuel Cell Working Group.

I shared U.S. Department of Energy findings and other evidence with the governor and N.C. Department of Environmental Quality that community hydrogen production and storage technology is just as much of an example of modern low / zero emission energy storage as batteries. These solutions are not meant to be at odds with one another but rather fill out the blanks in a responsible energy-innovation outcome for each of our municipalities.

A determination by Gov. Cooper and the N.C. Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy is needed that: 1) Hydrogen energy storage in both transportation and electric-grid modalities are part of the HB 589 energy storage parameters; and 2) That the N.C. VW Beneficiary Mitigation Plan will help fund at least two public-access, hydrogen-fueling stations in our state: one in Asheville and one near RDU. These first stations will serve North Carolina fuel cell electric vehicles, from personal and fleet cars to buses to long-haul trucks, all with ranges surpassing battery-only vehicles.

There is no good reason for them to say no. Here are some preliminary bullet points for getting moving:

▪ At the 2017 COP23 climate summit in Bonn, Germany, the Hydrogen Council presented a roadmap for hydrogen providing approximately 20 percent of the responsible global climate solution.

▪ The Volkswagen Beneficiary Mitigation Plan funds designated for North Carolina allow for hydrogen fueling stations. The HB 589 energy storage study allows for hydrogen.

▪ Like the way fuel cell forklifts in the Carolinas were an early commercial large-scale use of hydrogen, semi-tractors are also next. The Tesla Semi has a previously announced hydrogen competitor.

▪ Hydrogen safety standards for community use have been in place for years. There are no coal ash or oil spills from using hydrogen this way.

▪ While Duke Energy has erased any mention of grid fuel cells in their 2017 Integrated Resources Plan, they and the N.C. Utilities Commission approved an Apple grid fuel cell installation several years ago. As another grid fuel cell case study, Duke University and central Durham’s energy needs would likely benefit from a fuel cell microgrid / combined heat and power solution.

▪ For those who believe in a “100 percent renewables only” future, all the supporting analysis attempting to prove such an outcome includes hydrogen.

▪ Next steps for North Carolina since joining the U.S. Climate Alliance include becoming a Zero Emission Vehicle state per California Air Resources Board policy. That means adding fuel cell electric vehicles here and being another state with more influence over the transportation industry.

If North Carolina continues to skip solutions like hydrogen, that means we as a state set the grid resilience and sustainability innovation bar lower. If the USA comes up 20 percent short when we could have securely gone further, that means the climate impact will be that much worse. We can’t risk North Carolina and our nation getting this wrong as we have just one chance.

To learn more, join the Zero Emission Vehicle and Grid Fuel Cell Working Group by contacting grant@innovograph.com and visit HydrogenNC.com. Hydrogen Power for North Carolina is one part of Sustain NC. Both are programs of a future nonprofit.

Grant Millin lives in Asheville and was the North Carolina project manager of the Hydrogen Road Tour. He is the Sustain NC developer.