A role for hydrogen in decarbonization? with Nick Connell

Image Credits: The Port of Los Angeles. The Green Hydrogen Coalition’s HyBuild LA Initiative aims to bring low cost green hydrogen to Los Angeles, including its port. Ports and energy intensive sectors will be hard to decarbonize with wind and solar alone. Green hydrogen’s supporters say it can step in to fill the gap. Photo by Green Fire Productions.

Audio Editing by: Xu Wangyuxan Blurb by: Sophie Wenzlau Script by: Marie Hogan

What is “green” hydrogen?

Green hydrogen is an industry term for hydrogen produced using renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power through a process called electrolysis, where an electric current splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. It’s also known as renewable or zero-emission hydrogen. It is a clean and sustainable alternative to hydrogen produced from fossil fuels, which generates greenhouse gas emissions during the production process. When consumed in a fuel cell, hydrogen does not generate any emissions, but rather only produces water.  

It is important to distinguish green hydrogen from blue hydrogen, sometimes also called clean hydrogen.  Blue hydrogen is an industry term for hydrogen produced from natural gas and supported by carbon capture and storage, whereby the carbon dioxide generated during the hydrogen manufacturing process is captured and stored underground.  Blue hydrogen is controversial due to its reliance on natural gas, the production of which has many adverse environmental impacts.

Green hydrogen can be used as a fuel for vehicles, a source of electricity through fuel cells or combined heat and power systems, and as a feedstock in industrial processes.  It has the potential to significantly reduce emissions from hard-to-decarbonize sectors, such as transportation and industrial processes, and to support the expansion of renewable power through long-duration energy storage. Hydrogen’s energy storage potential is particularly important because transitioning to variable renewable energies like solar increases the need for energy storage capacity. Hydrogen fuel produced from wind and solar power is easy to store and transport for later use, making it a flexible energy source.

The potential benefits of using green hydrogen as a fuel or feedstock include reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improved energy security, and the creation of new economic opportunities in the renewable energy sector. However, there are also challenges to wider adoption, including the need to build infrastructure and the current high cost of production in some cases.  Even with enough infrastructure, green hydrogen may come with additional downsides; hydrogen can leak emissions into the atmosphere, which themselves contribute to warming. 

Policy Advances

In December 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy announced plans to allocate $750 million in funds from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law towards reducing the cost of clean hydrogen technologies, accelerating the use of clean hydrogen, and supporting commercial-scale deployment. The funds will be used to address technical barriers to cost reduction and ensure that emerging commercial-scale deployments will be viable with lower-cost, higher-performing technology, with the goal of achieving $1 per kilogram of clean hydrogen within a decade.

What is the Green Hydrogen Coalition and who is Nick Connell?

The Green Hydrogen Coalition (GHC) is a non-profit organization founded in 2019 with the goal of deploying green hydrogen at scale for multi-sectoral decarbonization. The GHC focuses on education, coalition building, and market development for green hydrogen.  The GHG is now working to bring green hydrogen at scale to cities across the US through its HyBuild North America program, starting with Los Angeles.

Nick Connell is policy director and interim Executive Director at the GHC. He has over 13 years of experience in energy policy and regulatory affairs.

More Information: 


Ethan: I’m Ethan Elkind, and you’re listening to Climate Break – climate solutions in a hurry. Today’s proposal: using hydrogen as a clean fuel to power everything that solar and wind energy can’t, including industrial facilities, long-distance transportation, and even the grid when renewables aren’t available. We spoke to Nick Connell, policy director for the Green Hydrogen Coalition, about how the fuel could help economies fully decarbonize.

Nick Connell: Green hydrogen could be produced from renewable resources such as wind and solar, as well as biomass or biogas sources. When the winds stop blowing and the sun’s not shining, we’re able to store that green hydrogen and put it back on the grid as a renewable resource to help us meet our decarbonization goals.

Ethan: Zero-emission hydrogen advocates are currently planning a large-scale project called HyBuild in Southern California which they say could supply the region’s most energy intensive facilities with green hydrogen at an affordable cost.

Nick Connell: What we’re planning to do in Los Angeles is a dedicated pipeline from Delta, Utah all the way down to LA and Basin. And having that green hydrogen readily available for these in basin power plants to repurpose and use green hydrogen as electricity – for example, at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. This is not only for the maritime ships going in and out, but also for like the port handling equipment, the drainage trucks, and also just the heavy duty vehicles that are on site.

Ethan: To learn more about green hydrogen and the Green Hydrogen Coalition’s HyBuild initiative, visit climatebreak.org.

A role for hydrogen in decarbonization? with Nick Connell