The strategic transformation and characteristic analysis of hydrogen energy in the United States under the carbon neutrality goal

Hydrogen energy is a clean and efficient secondary energy; the development of hydrogen energy technology is of great significance for building a clean, low-carbon, safe and efficient modern energy system, ensuring national energy security, improving the quality of the atmospheric environment, and promoting the upgrading of the energy industry. As an energy source, hydrogen has two distinct advantages: high energy density—the calorific value per unit mass of hydrogen is about four times that of coal, 3.1 times that of gasoline, and 2.6 times that of natural gas; it can be stored and can achieve flexible time transfer Or geographical transfer, diverse sources, zero discharge of terminals, wide application fields, etc.

As global climate pressures increase and the energy transition accelerates, hydrogen energy will play a major and positive role in achieving national carbon neutrality goals. China, the United States, Japan, South Korea, the European Union, and other major developed countries and regions in the world attach great importance to the development of hydrogen energy, and many countries and regions have raised hydrogen energy to the height of energy strategy. For example, in response to President Biden’s goal of addressing climate change, the U.S. Department of Energy launched an energy research plan and vigorously developed hydrogen energy as a feasible technology to promote the global energy transition and combat climate change. According to the International Hydrogen Energy Commission, by 2050, the proportion of hydrogen energy in all energy consumption will increase to 18%, and the market size of the hydrogen economy will reach 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars.

U.S. Hydrogen Strategy
U.S. Hydrogen Strategy

The United States is the first country to propose a hydrogen energy development plan. It has been more than 30 years since the U.S. government formulated various policies to promote the development of the hydrogen energy industry in 1990. It has always maintained the development ideas from policy evaluation, commercialization prospect forecast, program formulation, technology research, and development, to demonstration and promotion. As the pressure of global climate change increases, the U.S. hydrogen strategy has taken a new turn under the carbon neutrality goal. This article will analyze the goals, connotations, characteristics, and changes of the U.S. hydrogen energy strategy in the new era.

An Analysis of the History of the U.S. Hydrogen Energy Development Strategy.

The United States is the first country in the world to propose hydrogen energy research and application. In addition, the US government has issued several policies and action plans to promote the development of hydrogen energy since 1990.

The U.S. government has determined hydrogen energy as one of the directions of energy supply and has carried out hydrogen energy technology R&D and demonstration for 31 years. The development of hydrogen energy has laid a solid scientific foundation; it also shows that after years of exploration, the United States has a relatively mature understanding of the future application direction of hydrogen energy. In November 2019, the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA) of the United States pointed out in its “U.S. Hydrogen Economy Roadmap Executive Summary Report“: In the past ten years, the U.S. Department of Energy has provided annual funding for hydrogen energy and fuel cells. About 100 million to 280 million U.S. dollars of research and development funds, especially since 2017, about 150 million U.S. dollars of research and development funds have been invested every year; the U.S. Department of Energy plans to realize hydrogen energy in small passenger vehicles, forklifts, distributed power, household Applications in areas such as cogeneration, carbon capture, etc.; by 2030, the U.S. hydrogen economy is expected to generate approximately $140 billion in annual revenue and provide 700,000 jobs across the hydrogen value chain; by 2050, the U.S. About $750 billion in revenue and 3.4 million cumulative jobs will be created each year to drive economic growth; at the same time, hydrogen will account for 14% of U.S. energy demand by 2050. This reflects that promoting the industrialization of the whole chain of hydrogen energy technology, establishing new economic growth points, and feeding back the society will be the key tasks of the U.S. government to promote the development of hydrogen energy in the future.

The main characteristics of the development of the US hydrogen energy strategy in the new era.

With the frequent occurrence of extreme events of global climate change, the U.S. government will focus on the role that hydrogen energy should play in achieving the goal of local carbon neutrality, under the premise that the U.S. hydrogen energy technology research and development system is becoming more and more perfect and its effectiveness is becoming more and more obvious. In February 2021, the U.S. government announced its return to negotiations on the Paris Agreement, prompting the U.S. to reposition and make new deployments of hydrogen energy in the energy mix and global markets under climate goals. On November 12, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy released the latest version of the “Hydrogen Energy Program Development Plan” based on the 2002 plan, proposing an overall strategic framework for hydrogen energy research, development, and demonstration in the next ten years and beyond. The technical and economic indicators for developing hydrogen energy in the United States by 2030 have been set, and the main contents include the following three aspects.

(1) Set the technical and economic indicators of key development technologies in the entire hydrogen energy chain, and expect to improve technical stability and efficiency, reduce costs, and accelerate the commercial application of several hydrogen energy technologies or products through technological innovation. Some technical fields in the whole chain of hydrogen energy have taken the lead in realizing commercial development.

(2) The United States has stepped up the design and research of other hydrogen energy technologies, hoping to further provide more diversified options for the American hydrogen energy economy. For example, through the research of renewable energy, fossil energy, and nuclear energy hydrogen production technology, develop a variety of hydrogen sources; through the development of advanced hydrogen energy distribution technology, hydrogen storage medium, and hydrogen storage facilities, to meet the needs of various scales of hydrogen storage and transportation; through further development, High-performance fuel cells and synthetic fuel products, etc., expand the application field of hydrogen energy.

(3) Carry out research and formulation of hydrogen energy standards. To cooperate with the industrialization of hydrogen energy technology, equipment, materials, and manufacturing processes, the United States plans to research standardized manufacturing processes, quality control, and optimized manufacturing design, expecting to formulate applicable and unified standards to ensure hydrogen energy production, transmission and distribution, storage and Apply security, scale, unification, and quality processes to provide best-practice experiences and practices.

To implement the above-mentioned “Hydrogen Energy Program Development Plan,” the U.S. Department of Energy launched the first “Hydrogen Shot” program on June 7, 2021, and solicited related projects. —2030) Reduce the price of renewable energy, nuclear energy, and thermal energy conversion to produce clean hydrogen energy by 80% to $1/kg (the current price of hydrogen production from renewable energy is $5/kg), increase the cost of clean hydrogen production by five times production, and further reduce carbon emissions. The project solicitation information of the plan is mainly as follows: ① From the aspects of hydrogen production, hydrogen source, and hydrogen application infrastructure, seek ideal areas where hydrogen energy demonstration projects can be carried out. Such areas should have the necessary resources available for clean hydrogen production and infrastructure, including but not limited to water, renewable energy, nuclear energy, natural gas, or from other wastes (e.g., landfills, flare gas, wastewater treatment) obtained energy resources. ② Analyze existing and potential users and cases in ideal areas for hydrogen energy demonstration projects, such as demand cases in the industry, transportation, chemical manufacturing, ensuring power grid security, and other fields. ③ Study the emission reduction potential of greenhouse gases and other pollutants under the hydrogen energy value chain. ④ Analyze the basic science, basic or applied research that may be required to implement the hydrogen energy demonstration project, the need for innovation, and the required system integration or prototyping facilities. The “Hydrogen Energy Research” plan has enabled the United States to start the transition from the production of hydrogen from fossil energy (gray hydrogen and blue hydrogen) to the production of hydrogen from renewable energy (green hydrogen).

Implications of the New Deal for U.S. Hydrogen Energy under the Carbon Neutrality Goal.

According to the goal of addressing climate change proposed by U.S. President Biden, the United States has accelerated the research and commercialization of hydrogen energy technology, from which five specific inspirations can be drawn.

(1) Make hydrogen energy an important energy form comparable to electricity. According to the latest hydrogen energy strategic goals in the United States, by 2030, the hydrogen energy industry will create revenue of 140 billion U.S. dollars and 700,000 jobs; by 2050, it will contribute 16% to the carbon dioxide emission reduction of the U.S. industrial industry. In addition, the proportion of demand will reach 14%, thus becoming an important terminal energy form comparable to electricity.

(2) The R&D and industrialization of hydrogen energy technology in the United States are multi-targeted. At the same time, it pays more attention to the R&D and industrialization of clean hydrogen production technology. After 30 years of research and development of the whole technology chain of hydrogen energy technology, the United States has transformed from the initial (the 1990s) to the goal of using hydrogen energy as an energy storage technology, adjusting and optimizing the energy structure of the United States, and focusing on the development of the hydrogen energy fuel cell industry. And develop the hydrogen economy, respond to carbon neutrality goals, boost the economy, accelerate the commercialization of the full chain of “hydrogen production-hydrogen transport-hydrogen storage-hydrogen use,” and strive for global hydrogen technology dominance (2020 to date). At the same time, the United States pays more attention to the research and development of green and clean hydrogen production technologies such as hydrogen production by electrolysis of water, hydrogen production by renewable energy, and hydrogen production by nuclear energy. The above measures not only promote the comprehensive transformation of the United States to establish a clean energy structure system but also enable it to occupy a dominant position in the global hydrogen energy chain technology and economic development system.

(3) Pay attention to the research and development and large-scale demonstration of the whole chain technology of “hydrogen production-hydrogen transport-hydrogen storage-hydrogen use,” study key core technologies of hydrogen energy, and open up key links such as the technology chain, industrial chain, and supply chain of the hydrogen energy industry in the United States, laying a solid scientific and technological foundation for the U.S. hydrogen energy technology and industrial self-reliance. ① In terms of hydrogen production, we have designed and developed electrolytic cell hydrogen production technology, fossil energy reforming, gasification and pyrolysis hydrogen production technology, nuclear energy hydrogen production technology, biomass and waste hydrogen production technology, hybrid hydrogen production technology, Renewable energy hydrogen production technology, etc. For example, in 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy launched the development of megawatt and gigawatt-scale electrolyzer equipment. ② In terms of hydrogen transportation, hydrogen distribution and transportation systems have been developed, including liquefaction and chemical hydrogen storage technologies, etc., and hydrogen transportation infrastructure has been constructed. ③ In terms of hydrogen storage, develop hydrogen storage systems, hydrogen storage facilities, hydrogen storage media, etc., including research and provision of emergency supply and geological hydrogen storage schemes. ④ Regarding the use of hydrogen, among the technologies for converting hydrogen as raw material, hydrogen fuel cell technology and high-concentration hydrogen turbine systems are developed.

(4) Combining economic and technical indicators as evaluation indicators of technological innovation, essentially to speed up the commercial application of local hydrogen energy and gain the first-mover advantage of the United States in the global hydrogen energy technology and market. From the beginning of the formulation of the hydrogen energy policy in the United States in 1990, the U.S. government determined the research and development direction of the whole chain of hydrogen energy technology at that time through sufficient research and demonstration, studied the technical feasibility of hydrogen energy in industry, housing, transportation, etc., and focused on the application. In the application of hydrogen fuel cells in the field of transportation. However, with the increasing pressure on the global climate, especially the establishment of the new U.S. government in early 2021, the United States has significantly accelerated the pace of addressing climate goals, promoting the application of hydrogen energy, and establishing a hydrogen energy economic system, which reflects the United States’ commitment to promoting The urgency of hydrogen energy development.

(5) Attach importance to the research and development of new material technologies related to hydrogen energy, hoping to promote the transformational upgrade of key hydrogen energy equipment technologies. The United States has fully adhered to the concept that “materials are the cornerstone of promoting all technological changes” when formulating hydrogen energy development plans and deploying research projects. Since 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy has begun to deploy several new materials in hydrogen production technology. The research and development projects mainly include the development of fuel cell ion exchange membranes, developing new coating materials for electrolyzers, and developing various catalyst materials, which are expected to improve the stability and durability of hydrogen production technology. In 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy will also invest up to $32 million in development funding for the research of high-strength hydrogen storage and transportation materials such as carbon fiber.

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