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Coalition seeks federal funding for a Southeast hydrogen hub

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Southeast Hydrogen Hub Coalition
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The coalition envisions a six-state Southeast hub for producing clean hydrogen. Partners include major utilities and industrial companies that use hydrogen.

Utilities and other companies around the Southeast have banded together to seek federal funding to develop a regional center for producing clean hydrogen. The goal is to replace fossil fuels at power and industrial plants.

The Southeast Hydrogen Hub coalition announced Tuesday plans to go after part of $8 billion set aside for regional hydrogen production in last year's bipartisan infrastructure law. The Department of Energy announced the program in June.

The coalition includes major utilities like Duke Energy and Dominion Energy and industrial companies from Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina.

John Morrison of the energy industry group E4 Carolinas said the Department of Energy is trying to create a "hydrogen economy."

"So you have to have both the supply and the use of hydrogen. And so whoever the successful bidders are, they will demonstrate both the ability to produce supply, transport and then use the hydrogen," Morrison said.

Hydrogen does not produce pollutants like carbon dioxide that cause global warming when burned, as long as it's produced using renewable or other clean electricity. Duke and other utilities could both supply renewable energy for hydrogen production and use hydrogen in their power plants.

The coalition plans to ask the energy department for $1.25 billion and would match that with private funds to create a six-state hydrogen hub, said Duke Energy executive Swati Daji. She said it's part of Duke's push for new technologies that would help meet its goal of net-zero carbon emissions from energy generation by 2050.

"Those technologies also have to be reliable, and something we can dispatch when needed. So hydrogen provides such a great option if we can enable it," Daji said.

Duke could burn hydrogen in place of natural gas at its power plants, she said.

"It uses our existing infrastructure, so (it is) low cost for our customers," she said. And she said the hydrogen hub will create jobs and help Duke's industrial customers.

"We thought that we are uniquely positioned to really go after this, or not only for the utility but for the whole economy in the Southeast. And we have the right ingredients to really make a strong application for this," Daji said.

Applications to the Department of Energy will be due in April. No site or sites have been identified for the hub or any of its potential projects.

Others involved in the coalition are the Southern Company, Tennessee Valley Authority, Louisville Louisville Gas & Electric, Kentucky Utilities and the nonprofit Battelle Memorial Institute.

Another initiative announced Tuesday called HyBuild Carolinas aims to help speed the development of clean hydrogen in the region through conferences and analytical studies.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.