Background & Context
In January, the Connecticut Hydrogen Task Force released its report with recommendations on hydrogen-fueled energy in the state. The Task Force was established by Special Act 22-8 with an assignment to examine the sources of potential clean hydrogen and recommendations for potential end uses of hydrogen-fueled energy. It’s important to note that the legislation did not specifically ask the Task Force to study the most reasonable and cost-effective use of hydrogen to help the state reach its overarching GHG reduction goal of 80% below 2001 levels by 2050 – a critical shortcoming in Acadia Center’s view. Acadia Center has been heavily involved in the stakeholder process informing the development of the Report, including sitting on the End Uses Working Group.
The Task Force’s report comes at a time when hydrogen is a hot topic in the state and region. In 2022, Connecticut joined six other northeastern states to develop a proposal to become one of at least four regional clean hydrogen hubs designated through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs Program. If selected, the states could receive anywhere from $400 million to $1.25 billion to develop and deploy a hydrogen hub in the region. Simultaneously, DEEP is currently in the process of developing an update to the state’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy, the overarching document that covers a broad set of energy policy recommendations for the state. The role of hydrogen will be a key area of focus in the CES, but it remains to be seen how much the Task Force Study will influence the direction of the CES.
Largely Keeps the Focus on Hard-to-Decarbonize Sectors
As Acadia Center has previously explained in greater detail here, clean hydrogen is and will continue to be a limited resource that should be strategically used in the sectors of the economy that are hardest to electrify, not building heating and passenger vehicles. Fortunately, the Report largely echoes Acadia Center’s stance on this issue, concluding that heat electrification will ultimately be the most cost-effective option for reducing carbon emissions for residential and commercial customers, and that hydrogen fuel cell passenger cars will likely be more expensive in terms of both upfront purchase and fueling costs, and need for a whole new set of fueling infrastructure.
A Few Problematic Recommendations
However, Acadia Center does have some concerns with a few key recommendations stemming from the report.
- Hydrogen Vehicle Tax Exemptions: The Report recommends that “The Legislature should consider tax exemptions for hydrogen vehicles and critical facilities that produce or use clean hydrogen.” While it potentially makes sense to incentivize hydrogen vehicles in portions of the transportation sector that are challenging to electrify (e.g., shipping, long-haul trucking) it makes zero sense to incentivize hydrogen fuel cell passenger vehicles, which are inferior to battery electric vehicles by basically every measure (as the Repot itself acknowledges).
- Hydrogen Blending for Power Plants and Industrial Facilities: A second concern is that the Report categorizes hydrogen blending for “non-core gas customers” (i.e., power generation and industrial heat) as a “high priority hydrogen end use” that should be further investigated by DEEP. However, the report fails to specify that such blending should be done only at the facility level, and not into the gas distribution system that serves all customers.
- Encouraging Hydrogen Producers to Report Fuel Carbon Intensity: Finally, the Report recommends that DEEP “Develop accounting mechanisms that encourage hydrogen producers to certify carbon intensity of produced hydrogen.” This shouldn’t be a voluntary program – DEEP should require that hydrogen producers certify the carbon intensity of the fuel they produce. Only then can we be sure that clean hydrogen really is clean.
Much Work Still to Be Done to Define a Reasonable Role of Hydrogen in Connecticut
Ultimately, before DEEP can determine the most reasonable, cost-effective role for hydrogen to play in helping Connecticut reach its long-term GHG emissions reduction goals, it’s necessary to evaluate the tradeoffs between different future “pathways” through an economy-wide modeling analysis, similar to what Massachusetts did in the 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap. This type of analysis would help the state to clearly understand how hydrogen fits into the overall, long-term decarbonization puzzle in the state. Connecticut still hasn’t undertaken that type of comprehensive analysis and this Report does not (and doesn’t pretend to) fill that void. As a result, the recommendations from the Report are of limited value and really serve as only the first step in understanding the appropriate role for hydrogen in Connecticut.
The Report highlights next steps for DEEP which Acadia Center is on board with, including advising DEEP to:
- Develop a definition of clean hydrogen appropriate for Connecticut.
- Evaluate the sufficiency of zero-emission electricity sources to meet both electric sector decarbonization goals and hydrogen production targets.
- Lead interstate and interagency coordination to develop a hydrogen roadmap and strategy that, among other things, examines the cost and availability of zero-carbon renewable energy resources to produce clean hydrogen and examines overall alignment with state policies and goals, including GHG reduction goals.
It’s critical for DEEP to follow through on these recommendations and economy-wide pathways modeling will be essential in supporting them in this task.
For more information:
Ben Butterworth, Director of Climate, Energy, and Equity Analysis, firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-742-0054 ext. 111