Madrid wants to ramp up production of emissions-free fuel like green hydrogen

In recent years, financial and legislative support for clean hydrogen production, research and deployment has taken off on a global scale. India announced a $2.3 billion incentive plan to become a hydrogen exporter. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) plans to spend $8 billion on regional hydrogen hubs, with $1 billion of that funding flagged specifically for solutions to bolster clean hydrogen demand.

Amid all this investment activity, global net zero goals coupled with the urgent need to decarbonize heavy industries are pushing hydrogen to the forefront of public awareness as a viable clean energy solution. To support sustainable global growth of clean hydrogen production this decade, we must focus on two things: Prioritizing renewable hydrogen's benefits for high-impact, hard-to-abate markets; and adopting harmonized collaborative standards for producing, trading and importing/exporting hydrogen that take true carbon intensity into account.

Hydrogen: Unlocking a Cleaner Energy Future

Not all hydrogen is renewable or clean. The process of electrolysis splits water into hydrogen and oxygen and, when powered by renewable energy, it creates zero-carbon and zero-methane. However, when electrolyzers are tied to the grid, they most likely are powered predominantly by fossil fuels. This means the hydrogen produced by grid-connected electrolyzers cannot truly be considered zero-carbon. The solution? Adopt regulations and systems that incentivize grid-tied electrolysis powered by dedicated, additional renewable resources like solar and wind. More stringent guidance will ensure green hydrogen production does not generate new carbon emissions. It will also encourage more effective use of clean hydrogen investments in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and other funding programs.

Across the globe, renewable hydrogen can offer a reliable, scalable, resilient and accessible clean energy source to markets most in need of decarbonization solutions. This includes heavy-duty processes for which electrification is expensive and impractical, as well as industries looking to transition away from reliance on fossil fuels. By deploying renewable hydrogen swiftly and efficiently, these markets can make a monumental impact on carbon abatement. The benefits and opportunities of clean hydrogen will vary based on industry and country, but communicating the major driving factors to these groups is an essential first step to establishing them as future leaders of the global energy transition.


The hardest to decarbonize sectors need clean energy solutions that provide energy 24/7 on a non-intermittent basis to transition off fossil fuels in a reliable manner. Once produced, hydrogen can be deployed on-demand to energy users, offering a non-intermittent energy source when other renewables that rely on weather conditions (e.g., solar and wind) may fall short. The most impactful way to offer round-the-clock, dispatchable hydrogen power, is by pairing hydrogen production with on-site energy storage.


Storing clean hydrogen for weeks, months or seasons and delivering it to large industrial customers on-demand maximizes the potential of hydrogen as a clean fuel and power source. Geologic hydrogen storage via salt caverns, aquifers or depleted gas fields is emerging as a low-cost and commercially viable solution for long-term storage. Prioritizing scalable clean hydrogen production facilities and partnerships in the hardest-to-abate global markets like shipping, power generation and manufacturing will drive an outsized impact on reducing overall industrial emissions.


In the same way that fossil fuel can be stored to ensure resource availability and backup capacity for emergencies, long-duration storage of clean hydrogen can help meet variable demand during seasons and provide backup power and grid stability in the event of an outage. Across resource-stressed energy markets, stored renewable fuel can also offer critical energy security.


New momentum for global clean hydrogen projects increases the need for efficient infrastructure and transportation of hydrogen to end users. The DOE's H2 Hubs program is one such initiative aimed at tackling this issue by prioritizing hydrogen production locations that have access to reliable transportation infrastructure. The hub approach can be deployed in many markets and can even be extended to include co-locating hydrogen production facilities with off-takers, such as steel producers. When clean energy is more accessible via hubs and co-location, the benefits and investments of the energy transition become equally accessible to entire communities.

Collaboration Is the Key

Nations, companies and groups pursuing clean hydrogen projects cannot act alone if they hope to contribute to broader decarbonization and net zero goals. The U.S. currently offers the largest hydrogen subsidy in the world. Even so, further guidance on emissions and carbon accounting is needed to thoughtfully implement credits and incentives put forth by the Clean Hydrogen Production Standard. Weak guidance could lead to subsidizing hydrogen projects that may add to emissions rather than decrease them. As favorable funding and legislation allow the U.S. to take on a leadership role, it'll be important to stay in touch with other nations adopting innovative standards and best practices. For instance, in Europe, rules which require clean hydrogen producers to establish energy-purchase agreements with new renewable energy resource providers beginning in 2028 have bolstered the European Union's definition of clean hydrogen.

Establishing a global renewable hydrogen ecosystem will also elevate entire regions and communities by attracting new low-emissions manufacturing capacity to areas historically dominated by legacy industrial activity. When hard-to-abate industrial companies co-locate their operations with clean hydrogen production sites, they gain access to education, apprenticeship and job creation opportunities. Strategically located hydrogen sites — like those with access to ports and rail corridors — will also drive new business growth for local transportation and logistics entities. And, across all these efforts, whenever fossil fuels are replaced by renewable hydrogen, local air and water quality will improve.

Scaling clean hydrogen production to historic levels to meet demand and achieve global net zero goals won't be achieved by clean energy innovators alone. The most impactful projects breaking ground this decade will need support from both public and private entities, as well as buy-in from end users in heavy industries and advocacy among community members.

Laura L. Luce is the CEO of Hy Stor Energy, a company pioneering renewably produced green hydrogen and energy storage at scale.

(Opinions expressed in this article are the author's own.)