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From scattered oil towns to collective hydrogen hub: four western states to develop regional clean energy plan

Together the states will submit a plan competing for a slice of $8 billion being allocated from the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, to fund four or more regional hubs.

(CN) — Colorado signed a memorandum of understanding with neighboring states New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming on Thursday pledging to develop a regional hydrogen hub fueling the future of clean energy.

“Clean hydrogen has the potential to advance the interests of western state in clean air, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, jobs, rural and urban economic development and a just transition,” the memorandum explained.

Together the states will submit a plan competing for a slice of $8 billion being allocated from the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, to fund four or more regional hubs. President Joe Biden set a goal of creating a 100% clean electrical energy grid by 2035, with net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The Department of Energy is anticipating to release a formal request for proposals in May.

The fact that these four states all have deep roots in the oil and gas industry was spun as an advantage over other states along with the west’s “established carbon management infrastructure and favorable geology.”

In a statement, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said advancing hydrogen technologies would help the state meet its goals of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and by 90% in 2050.

“Colorado’s leadership in decarbonizing the electric sector using abundant wind and solar resources, existing gas supply chain and strong intellectual capital including universities and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) position Colorado to build the technology and workforce needed to scale hydrogen in the region and around the world,” Polis added.

Located in Golden, Colorado, NREL is currently developing techniques to reduce the cost of producing hydrogen, with an eye toward creating H2FillS fueling stations for cars. One area of research, electrolysis, proposes using solar and wind power to convert water and CO2 into industrial chemicals like hydrogen, formic acid, methane and methanol.

The U.S. produces about 10 million metric tons of hydrogen annually — about a tenth of the 99 million tons produced by the rest of the world. The main source of U.S. hydrogen currently mainly comes from the natural gas industry, according to the Department of Energy.

“In Utah, we keep energy prices low to keep quality of life high. Our natural resources and existing infrastructure, along with our talented workforce, enable us to maintain this commitment to our citizens,” said Utah Governor Spencer Cox, in a statement. “With Utah's resources and expertise in the development of a clean hydrogen hub, the possibility of affordable, reliable and clean hydrogen is not just a possibility, it's inevitable.”

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