What We Doadvocacy for harnessing surplus renewable electricity to produce climate-neutral fuels.
The Renewable Hydrogen Alliance promotes using renewable electricity to produce hydrogen and other climate neutral fuels to replace fossil fuel consumption.
As power grids become increasingly dependent on low-cost renewable power such as wind and solar, systems become increasingly prone to the challenge of variable and not entirely predictable output levels. System operators already experience periods when supply exceeds demand and renewable power is turned off, the zero carbon power left unused due to lack of demand. Periods of excess, or “surplus” generation will increase as we add more low-cost renewable energy to the power grids. As a result, the opportunity to use renewable generation more efficiently will increase. The effects are already being felt in Europe where so-called “electrolyzer” technologies are already soaking up the surplus renewable energy to produce hydrogen and other non-fossil fuels. Economies of scale realized from these deployments are causing electrolyzer costs to fall precipitously. As the availability of low-value surplus energy goes up and electrolyzer costs go down, using electricity to extract hydrogen will become cost competitive with fossil-based hydrogen.
Electricity can be used to extract hydrogen (and oxygen) from the water. It is a relatively simple process that was originally discovered more than two centuries ago. The greater prevalence of renewable power in Europe, along with the higher cost of natural gas, has spurred development and resulting economy-of-scale price reductions. This technology is far less known in the US where natural gas is much less expensive and renewable energy less widespread. Few utilities (gas or electric), regulators, legislators, environmental organizations, or renewable resource providers are aware of the recent cost reductions. The Renewable Hydrogen Alliance was launched in June 2018 to spread awareness of renewable hydrogen and its benefits to a wide range of stakeholders, and to promote policies to develop renewable hydrogen in North America.
Ken Dragoon’s Flink Energy Consulting was hired by NW Natural in the summer of 2018 to write a report on power-to-gas. Flink had written an earlier article on thermal energy storage that contained a reference to the process of creating fuels from renewable electricity that caught the eye of NW Natural’s Bill Edmonds. Bill and Ken had been colleagues at PacifiCorp and Bill initiated a correspondence that led to a contract for Flink to provide NW Natural with a description of the technology that converts water and electricity (electrolyzers) into climate-neutral fuels.
In researching the report, Ken found that significant deployments in Europe had dropped the cost of electrolyzers precipitously in just a few years. This was not just news to NW Natural and Flink, but appeared to be largely unknown among utilities, renewable developers, regulators, and environmental advocates in North America. As a result, Dragoon committed himself to promoting the industry in North America.
After speaking with several renewable and environmental advocacy organizations, it became clear that an advocacy organization was needed to promote using surplus renewable electricity to create climate-neutral fuels. Aided by the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and supported by NW Natural and Puget Sound Energy along with advisors David White, Gerry Snow, Kris Nelson and Michelle Detwiler, the Renewable Hydrogen Alliance formed in June 2018.