Letter: Indiana is becoming America’s hydrogen innovation hub

Man hands writing in the diary, coffee mug and laptop on wooden table

From: Rich Powell

Washington D.C.

As normal routines were upended due to COVID-19, communities and businesses have been forced to use two very important words — adapt and innovate. Offices are getting creative with work-from-home policies, restaurants are developing expansive takeout options, and healthcare facilities are offering virtual doctor’s appointments.

Energy and industrial companies are looking to innovate too.

One of the hottest technologies for innovation right now is hydrogen. In addition to job-creating capabilities, hydrogen is a versatile, clean energy carrier that can help the nation reduce its carbon dioxide emissions and achieve net-zero emissions goals. It’s used to decarbonize industrial processes, store and provide backup energy for the electric grid, and serves as a transportation fuel for busses, long-haul trucks and passenger vehicles.

And Indiana’s leaders are far ahead of the curve.

U.S. Reps. Greg Pence and Andre Carson have introduced H.R. 1788, the Clean Energy Hydrogen Innovation Act, to advance innovation in hydrogen energy in Indiana and across the country. The bill would, among other things, give access to low-cost financing for projects relating to hydrogen production, delivery, infrastructure, storage, fuel cells and end uses.

And likewise, U.S. Sen. Todd Young introduced S.4970, the Hydrogen Utilization and Sustainability Act last year to include electricity produced from hydrogen as eligible for the Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit (PTC). The bipartisan bill would promote investment in hydrogen-based energy.

Over the past year, Indiana has become a major hub for hydrogen technology, and many of the advancements in this industry are happening here.

For instance, Columbus-based Cummins Inc. is a global leader in hydrogen fuel cells and storage solutions and is exploring opportunities to use these technologies in buses, trucks, trains, boats and other vehicles.

And drivers in Indiana are already benefiting from hydrogen fuel cell technology since the city of Carmel became the first in the nation to retrofit a portion of its vehicle fleet with a technology developed at Purdue University that produces hydrogen energy and supplements the need for traditional fuel, while increasing the vehicles’ efficiency and reducing emissions.

For decades, Indiana’s robust agriculture sector has relied on hydrogen to produce ammonia, a crucial ingredient in fertilizers. Plus, hydrogen can also be used to reduce sulfur content in diesel fuel, creating more sustainable and efficient vehicles on the farm.

And according to the Road Map to a U.S. Hydrogen Economy, an analysis conducted in partnership with my former employer McKinsey & Company, the hydrogen sector alone could represent 700,000 U.S. jobs by 2030 and a whopping 3.4 million jobs by 2050, but only with the continued support from industry and government.

And that’s why Indiana’s federal lawmakers are ahead of the curve on investing in new, clean technologies that create new jobs and a cleaner and healthier environment for all. As the nation looks to establish its own hydrogen policy roadmap, Indiana is a good place to start.

Editor’s note: Rich Powell leads ClearPath, a nonprofit that advances policies to reduce emissions in the energy and industrial sectors.