This story was updated at 8:18 a.m.
Senators from the Southeast have come together in an unusual show of bipartisan harmony as they try to convince the Energy Department to award the region a hydrogen hub project.
In a letter led by Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) released Thursday to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, the lawmakers made the case that the region should serve as at least one of the four selections for investments by DOE for a hydrogen build-out. The $8 billion program was made possible by the 2021 infrastructure law.
The lobbying comes a month ahead of an application deadline to DOE for communities and regions looking to qualify for the funding — a prospect that has prompted aggressive Capitol Hill posturing.
The group that they were “heartened by the Department of Energy’s encouraging notification in response to the coalition’s concept paper and urge the Department to select the Southeast Hydrogen Hub coalition for funding.” They added, “We stand ready to provide long-term support for the Southeast Hydrogen Hub’s implementation and growth.”
Additional signatures include Sens. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Katie Britt (R-Ala.).
A hydrogen hub would continue a string of renewable energy successes for the southeast.
Green-energy companies have announced numerous projects in the past few months, including for electric vehicle battery and solar panel manufacturing facilities. Companies have said incentives in the bipartisan infrastructure law and Inflation Reduction Act were key in making their decisions (Energywire, Nov. 18. 2022).
A key for net zero
Hydrogen is seen as a key component in the quest for net-zero emissions. It has the potential to unleash tens of billions of dollars in economic output in the power, transportation and industrial sectors.
Lawmakers are already believers, especially for harder-to-decarbonize sectors like heavy-duty shipping vehicles and airplanes. In addition to the hydrogen hub funding, Congress provided a ten-year investment tax credit for hydrogen production as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.
A hydrogen hub program “presents a unique opportunity to grow the Southeast’s economy, strengthen U.S. energy independence, lower costs for households and businesses, and continue to develop the region as a clean energy leader,” the lawmakers wrote.
Despite their enthusiasm for the hydrogen hubs, four Republican signers of the letter voted against the infrastructure law that made them possible: Blackburn, Scott and Hagerty; Budd voted against the bill as a member of the House. Britt was not a member of Congress.
Both Graham and Tillis supported the bill, as did all Democrats.
The competition remains fierce. Competing bids include hubs in West Virginia, Alaska, California, the Southwest, Wyoming and Midwest. DOE has to pick at least four, although more hubs could emerge as part of the process. Lawmakers have continued to press the administration on the award status.
A decision on funding for the hydrogen hubs will come before the end of the year, DOE Deputy Secretary David Turk said at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing in February.
“But as you know from our secretary, she’s going to try to move that timeline up but do it right,” Turk said of Granholm’s ambitions on the awards.
According to Turk, DOE received nearly 80 initial notices of interest from regions and communities across the county. Of that total, DOE encouraged 33 of those applications to continue with the process while also discouraging an additional 46 of those applications from continuing due to eligibility concerns.
The latest round for more detailed applications are due by April 7, Turk noted.
“We’re going to get the funding out by the end of this year,” Turk said. “So we’re moving quite quickly on that front.”