Future Benefits

This lamppost EV charger just went commercial in the US

By: Michelle Lewis
View the original article here

Image: Voltpost

EV charging company Voltpost‘s “first-of-a-kind” lamppost EV charger is now commercially available in major US metro areas.

The New York and San Francisco-based company is developing and deploying EV charging projects in US cities like New York, Chicago, Detroit, and others this spring.

Voltpost retrofits lampposts into a modular and upgradable Level 2 EV charging platform powered by a mobile app. The company says its platform provides EV drivers convenient and affordable charging while reducing installation costs, time, maintenance, and chargers’ footprint.

Voltpost can install a lamppost charger inexpensively in one to two hours without construction, trenching, or extensive permitting processes. The ease of installation helps bring more EV charging to underserved communities and high-density areas.

Last year, Voltpost participated in the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Studio program, a collaboration between the NYC DOT and Newlab. In its pilot, Voltpost installed chargers on lampposts at Newlab in Brooklyn and in a DOT parking lot. The chargers were installed in an hour, operated with a high uptime, and got positive feedback from EV drivers.

The lamppost EV chargers feature 20 feet of retractable cable and a charge plug with a pulsing light that routes the cable at a 90-degree angle to the car socket so the cable doesn’t become a hazard to pedestrians and traffic.

The system can accommodate either two or four charging ports. There’s a Voltpost mobile app so drivers can manage charging, and it also features a map of available and in-use Voltpost chargers. Users can make reservations, track charging, pay based on electricity consumed, and see stats on financial and environmental savings.

The lamppost EV chargers also have a Charge Station Management System that provides charging analytics for public and private stakeholders. Site hosts can set charger features, including pricing, and remotely monitor chargers.

Inside the Race to Build America’s EV Charging Network

While the industry plans more convenient, reliable charging stations with amenities, the needed growth in infrastructure remains immense.

By: Tim Stevens
View the original article here

Rolls- Royce

Even zealots of the electric vehicle will tell you that public charging can be a fraught affair. If all goes well, and it often doesn’t, your charging session will likely entail sitting in a dark corner of a parking lot for upwards of an hour. You might have to stand in the rain or snow to operate the charger because most stations lack awnings. You might have to go hungry because many lack access to food. And, perhaps worst of all, your session may be made extra uncomfortable by a typical lack of restrooms. 

But hopefully that’s changing. This year, Electrify America opened an indoor flagship location in San Francisco. Situated at 928 Harrison Street, this bank of 20 high-speed chargers is unique not only for its location—occupying some very expensive real estate—but also for its amenities. While charging, you can grab a drink from a vending machine, host a meeting from one of the lounges, and, yes, even use the bathroom. 

Electrify America’s new flagship location in San Francisco.
ELECTRIFY AMERICA

It’s a massive upgrade from what many EV early adopters have become accustomed to, but it’s just the beginning. With familiar roadside refuges such as Love’s Travel Stops and Buc-ee’s getting in on the game, the future is finally looking a bit brighter when it comes to electrification’s infrastructure.

Just as with buying a new house, the three most important factors in EV charging are location, location, and location. After all, the fastest, most reliable charger in the world is worthless if it isn’t where you need it. The good news? If you have off-street parking, you can likely put a charger in the best possible spot: your home. More than 90 percent of EV owners charge where they live. While slower than the high-speed units at public stations, at-home chargers more than make up for it in convenience. 

The latter can typically bring an empty car to full in under ten hours, which is plenty of time for most folks to replenish their EV’s battery pack between returning from work and heading out again the next day. That potentially means a full charge every morning, so public installations take a back seat for many who use an EV as their daily commuter. That’s why we need far fewer of them than we do gas stations. However, whether road-tripping or just going for an extended Sunday cruise, most EV owners will still need to replenish their batteries in the wild at some point. And while location is still crucial, other factors are gaining significance.

The fastest, most reliable charger in the world is worthless if it isn’t where you need it.
KENA BETANCUR/VIEW PRESS/GETTY IMAGES

Amaiya Khardenavis, an analyst of EV Charging Infrastructure at the energy-research firm Wood Mackenzie, says that there was a lot of “land grabbing” by the larger networks in the early days of EVs. That is, just throwing down chargers as close to major highways as possible with little regard for amenities. According to Khardenavis, today’s locations are more “customer-centric” than before. “The landscape in 2020 was dominated by only a few players in the market,” he says, “and these were all pure providers, like of course Tesla, but EVgo, Electrify America, ChargePoint, and that’s about it.”

Tesla gained an early advantage with its Supercharger network in 2012. Now, with more than 2,000 domestic locations, it’s the largest operator of fast chargers in the United States. But it wasn’t the first. ChargePoint is the nation’s largest network in general, launching back in 2007 and offering over 30,000 locations. Others weren’t far behind, including EVgo, which has about 3,000 chargers spread across 35 states. 

“We’re addressing a lot of our legacy equipment . . . some of our chargers are getting close to a decade old,” says Katie Wallace, EVgo’s director of communications. Yet some newer players are helping to raise the bar. One of those is EV manufacturer Rivian, which launched its Adventure Network just 18 months ago and has since deployed 433 fast chargers across 71 locations. “We’re opening sites each week,” says Sara Eslinger, director of the program for Rivian.

The EVgo network comprises about 3,000 chargers across 35 states.
JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

While the name “Adventure Network” infers that these chargers are at off-road trailheads, and indeed Rivian offers some of those, Eslinger says the company is still focused on serving major transportation corridors, while ensuring availability of amenities like 24-hour food services and restrooms, even going so far as to bring in their own lighting if necessary. As increased EV adoption pulls new investment from some familiar names, features like these are becoming the next battleground.

According to Khardenavis, “More retail stores, retail chains, and travel centers [are] entering the space—Walmart, Pilot, and Flying J, as well as Love’s, everyone is trying to be involved in this space to some extent.”  Though many of these partnerships are still developing (Mercedes-Benz just announced a deal with Buc-ee’s in November, for example), the net result should be a significantly improved charging experience.

The CEO of Rivian, Robert Scaringe, talks about the automaker’s Adventure Network plan at a
presentation last month.
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Why are all these players getting into the market now? The money is starting to flow. In the beginning, running an EV-charging business was brutally complicated and expensive, and served only a small segment of early adopters. Today, utilization rates for public chargers are surging, and so is revenue.

“In our last earnings call, we reported that EVgo’s network throughout was growing five times faster than EVs in operation,” Wallace says. She adds that people are getting more comfortable driving their EVs, relying on chargers further afield. 

Anthony Lambkin, vice president of operations at Electrify America, sees the same trend: “Some of our sites, especially in parts of California, are routinely over 50 percent utilization.” Lambkin refers to this as “massive growth,” and that it has driven the company to redesign some of its chargers, which were not up to surviving that intensity of use. Higher utilization means more money, and more money means more profits. But, as volume increases, so does the opportunity for other revenue streams. 

Unlike these chargers in Oyster Bay, N.Y., an increasing number of future stations may have a
retail-store component.
ALEJANDRA VILLA LOARCA/NEWSDAY RM VIA GETTY IMAGES

“In today’s gas-station business model, over 60 percent of the revenue really comes from store purchases, not from fuel retail,” Khardenavis says. “The future of the EV-charging model will be some sort of co-located retail-store presence.” More chargers at nicer locations, though, means nothing if they’re constantly broken. “The bigger question is going to be how reliable are these chargers?” Khardenavis says. A 2022 study out of the University of California, Berkeley, found that roughly one out of four chargers evaluated in the Greater Bay Area was non-functional (Tesla stations were not included). More troublingly, when the researchers visited those sites a week later, nearly all of them were still not fixed. 

Khardenavis says that such historically poor reliability is directly related to profitability: “I think with that kind of cash flow coming in . . . there is now an impetus to develop this model, which is more customer-centric than just earlier focusing on expanding to locations.”

More chargers at nicer locations means nothing if they’re constantly broken.
JOHN TLUMACKI/THE BOSTON GLOBE VIA GETTY IMAGES

In the world of public charging, there’s Tesla’s Supercharger network, and then there’s everybody else. Tesla’s network not only earned a reputation for being the most readily available and reliable, but using a single plug across every new Tesla model meant owners only had to show up, plug in, and wait while the electrons flowed.

Various plug standards have come and gone for other manufacturers, but that too is changing. Virtually every major manufacturer has agreed to use what’s being called the North American Charging Standard. It’s essentially the same plug that Tesla uses. 

Soon EVs from Ford, Rivian, and plenty of others will not only use the same plug, but will be able to easily charge at Tesla’s Supercharger stations across the nation. That’s the good news. The bad news is that all the non-Teslas on the road today use a combination of different plugs, most featuring the Combined Charging System, or CCS. While Tesla is updating some of its Supercharger installations to support CCS, it’s going to be a slow transition. “We’re going to be in a land of adapters for a while, because the soonest that any non-Tesla OEM is going to come out with the NACS port is probably the fall of 2025,” says Wallace.

Soon other EVs will not only have the same plug as Tesla models, but will be able to use
Tesla’s Supercharger stations across the nation.
CELAL GUNES/ANADOLU AGENCY VIA GETTY IMAGES

Rivian has updated its vehicles to show the location of all Superchargers on its integrated navigation, routing drivers appropriately depending on whether they have an adapter. Yet Khardenavis is concerned that this transition could slow down EV adoption further, with some buyers deciding to wait for the port transition to be completed before investing in a new EV. He fears that EVs with the “now-obsolete” CCS port could sit on dealership lots for longer.

Increased utilization raises the potential for long lines at chargers, but the process of building new stations entails dodging numerous roadblocks. One of those is working with local municipalities, which often aren’t used to moving at the pace of a startup. Electrify America’s Lambkin says that processes are improving, but it’s still a challenge. “Permitting is going much better for us now than it was five years ago because there are far more cities and towns and municipalities that are used to seeing this type of equipment,” Lambkin says. “Back in the day, it was like alien technology.” 

The federal government is helping as well. The 2021 National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program provides funding to help cover planning, construction, and even maintenance of chargers. “Folks are going to see a lot more stations coming online in the next year and a half,” says Wallace, who attributes this to the various Department of Transportation outposts at the state level becoming “more comfortable and more familiar with how to implement the NEVI program.”

U.S. President Joe Biden gets a demonstration of an EV charging setup at the White House.
JIM WATSON/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Another issue is grid capacity. Khardenavis notes that, for a larger installation, it can take upwards of a year just for the necessary upgrades to power the site. “Project delays are a very common theme in the fast-charging space especially,” he says. But the charging companies are finding ways around this, too. According to Lambkin, Electrify America routinely uses on-site batteries to offset energy usage during peak times and has a so-called “mega pack” in Baker, Calif. “That’s actually to allow us to build that site well in advance of when the utility, SCE in this case, had the capacity to be able to serve the number of dispensers and the amount of power that we needed.”

And finally, there’s construction. It takes time to design a given charger layout, run the conduit, lay out the chargers themselves, and wait for all that concrete to cure. Even that process is changing. “We just deployed our very first station using prefabrication in Texas,” says EVgo’s Wallace. “It’s just a more efficient way to deploy because everything is assembled off-site, in an assembly facility, and then dropped into a skid-frame. So this construction timeline is much shorter.”

Tesla owners line up for an available charger in Utah.
GEORGE FREY/GETTY IMAGES

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), current growth and demand for EVs will require 1.2 million U.S. public chargers by 2030. As to the current reality, Khardenavis notes that there are about 165,000 available today, and he’s skeptical about that 2030 target. “It’s almost ten-X growth, which is extremely challenging in today’s environment,” he says, adding that predicting the need for six years in the future is itself difficult given the unpredictability of consumer behavior. “I don’t see us reaching that number anytime in the next four- to five-year timeframe. But I think it’s a target that we need to have in mind before we deploy and make plans around making EV charging more ubiquitous.”

A couple wait on their EV to charge in Texas.
SHELBY TAUBER FOR THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES

But merely adding more chargers isn’t enough. It’ll take a better all-around charging experience to meet the needs of a new generation of luxury EV owners, such as drivers of the Mercedes-Benz EQS and the Rolls-Royce Spectre, for example. Meeting those standards will take more installations like Electrify America’s indoor flagship. “We’re really competing with the traditional fueling industry, and that’s been around for 100 years,” says Lambkin. “If you think about where we are today and where we’ve come in just five years, think about the levels of improvement that we can expect to see over the next five years.”

While that dingy charger in the back of the shopping-mall parking lot is still the norm for now, there’s work underway to make it the outlier. The real issue remains whether public adoption of EVs and the requisite infrastructure expansion will both maintain enough juice.

A tech-powered approach to overcoming grid bottlenecks

Transmission lines outside Houston, Texas (Courtesy: BFS Man/Flickr)

Contributed by Grzegorz Marecki, co-founder and CEO of Continuum Industries
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The expansion of electricity transmission infrastructure is crucial for meeting growing energy demands and accelerating the United States’ clean energy transition. However, spatial planning processes are struggling to keep pace with the speed of change required to tackle climate change. Building clean energy infrastructure today can take more than a decade, largely due to delays in planning and permitting. 

The root of this challenge lies in the complexity of infrastructure planning. Developers need to simultaneously meet the requirements of dozens of stakeholders, which demands a balance between technical and regulatory considerations, as well as the perspectives, priorities, and concerns of diverse stakeholders. Utilities, traditionally functioning as asset managers, are now faced with the need to become developers, driving the rapid expansion of America’s grid demands. However, their processes have not evolved at the pace required to meet this urgent need.

Additionally, as the volume of work increases, the industry grapples with insufficient resources to deliver at the speed required. Automation of repetitive tasks can help free up professionals, enabling them to focus on more complex challenges. The industry also faces constraints due to the limited number of specialists available for traditional tasks.

To overcome these challenges, the industry must embrace a technology-powered paradigm shift. A tech-enabled approach to planning processes, supported by professional oversight, has the potential to revolutionize the development of new energy networks.

Frontloading data for more predictable permitting

With the advancement of technology, governments and other key stakeholders now have access to unprecedented amounts of data. If harnessed effectively, this data can help infrastructure developers expedite decision-making processes and streamline the planning and permitting phases. 

New tools allow for a comprehensive data dive right at the project’s start, providing a full picture of constraints and opportunities. AI algorithms offer intelligent insights, guiding developers toward optimal decisions. These tools empower users by allowing them to configure assumptions, preferences, and project goals before the algorithm runs, ensuring a clear link between inputs and outputs. For example, easier access to spatial data makes it possible for developers to get a comprehensive view of the permits that would be required. Traditionally, they would have to wait a few months for a manually produced report from a consultant. This also allows the professionals to focus on the areas of highest risk. 

Automated routing for unbiased solutions 

By automating routine processes, developers can assess more alternatives than was ever possible without automation and remove decision biases. Algorithms can explore and optimize different solutions for infrastructure assets, simultaneously considering factors such as cost, technical feasibility, and environmental and community impact. 

While still in its early stages of adoption in the US, automated routing is already demonstrating its potential, and it might pay to look across the pond for an example to follow. The UK is slightly ahead of the US when it comes to grid expansion, and more than just encouraging is now expecting transmission companies to standardize and automate routing. The government has adopted a package of 19 measures to slash the project development timeline from 14 to 7 years, but utilities that have adopted a heavily automated approach say that they’ve been able to kick-start their projects and complete 12 months’ worth of work in as little as 8 weeks.

As the energy sector transforms and projects become increasingly complex, automated tools will empower developers to respond swiftly to changing requirements, market dynamics, and regulatory landscapes.

Transparency and accountability through comprehensive decision-making

In the past, manual record-keeping and documentation processes left room for ambiguity and potential oversights. However, technology can establish a reliable audit trail, ensuring that every decision is logged, timestamped, and linked to the specific dataset or analysis that influenced it. This record enables project teams to revisit and refine decisions, supporting external regulatory approvals and fostering accountability throughout the process.

Breaking silos with cross-department collaboration

Technology can also bridge the divide between internal teams, fostering smooth collaboration and streamlining decision-making processes. Providing a shared platform for data and insights ensures that everyone involved in the project is working from the same information, reducing miscommunication and delays.

Through leveraging technology, traditionally siloed disciplines can replace slow email communication channels with rapid feedback based on standard criteria. For example, when engineers move a tower to avoid difficult ground conditions closer to a water body, they receive automatic feedback on whether the new position meets the requirements for setbacks from the water based on environmental protection policies.

Public engagement and transparent project narratives

Beyond internal teams, technology plays a crucial role in engaging the public and garnering support for critical infrastructure projects. Presenting decisions backed by solid evidence and interactive visualizations makes complex data digestible and addresses concerns head-on. This transparency builds trust and fosters a sense of shared ownership, crucial for navigating the permitting process and ensuring community buy-in. 

Stakeholder engagement is also changing thanks to technology. Dynamic maps and immersive 3D visualizations now allow project teams to collaboratively iterate with stakeholders, demonstrating the project’s evolution over time and minimizing impacts. This interactive approach, coupled with routing and siting automation, eliminates the traditional time constraints associated with manual rerouting.

The submission of documents, particularly environmental baseline schedules and reports, has also evolved. Algorithms can now identify potential impacts, presenting them to professionals for screening and defining mitigation strategies. This not only speeds up the process but also frees up professionals for more strategic tasks.

The Linear Infrastructure Planning Panel provides a noteworthy example of the efforts made towards more transparent and dynamic project planning. The Panel’s purpose is to engage key public interest stakeholders, including social and environmental groups, in the development of good practices and ethical approaches in the use of new techniques, such as algorithms and advanced software tools, for infrastructure planning. By actively involving various stakeholders, the Panel contributes to shaping responsible and inclusive technology integration in the planning process, setting a precedent for the industry.

Looking ahead

The American Council on Renewable Energy emphasizes that a $1.5 trillion investment in new transmission infrastructure by 2030 is not just a financial commitment, but an investment in a clean energy future. In this landscape, technology is not a silver bullet, but still a powerful catalyst for change. It facilitates efficiency, transparency, and collaboration, enabling informed decision-making and accelerating the development of a robust and resilient grid.

By embracing a tech-powered approach, the US can overcome the bottlenecks plaguing the current system and realize the full potential of clean energy. This transformation isn’t about replacing human expertise; it’s about empowering and augmenting it, fostering a synergy that paves the way for a more efficient and sustainable future.

Timeline 2024: 28 sustainability policies, guidelines and targets to track

The business of sustainability continues to evolve rapidly. Here are the most important changes to expect in the coming year.

By:  Elsa Wenzel
View the original article here

Sophia Davirro/GreenBiz

With COP28 recent in the rearview mirror, 2024 represents a clear and critical inflection point for confronting the climate crisis. New rules in the European Union and in California, the world’s fifth-largest economy, will change how global businesses report risks, purchase energy and manage supply chains. The effects of the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S. are still emerging: 175 nations are hashing out the first global treaty to end plastic waste.

Below are some defining moments that will drive change in the business of sustainability in the coming year. 

Carbon

Expected U.S. SEC climate-related disclosures in April will require companies to report their GHG emissions.

The U.S. Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, part of the Department of Energy, announces winners in February of its carbon dioxide removal purchase pilot prize and will publish details for corporate sustainability teams’ own carbon removal due-diligence processes.

New guidance from the Science Based Targets initiative on the use of environmental attribute certificates, including carbon credits, in decarbonization goals should come out by summer.

By the end of 2024, companies subject to California’s new Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act (SB253) will need to establish processes for auditing their 2025 emissions ahead of 2026 reporting.

Finance and ESG

A new proposal may emerge in the spring from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), after it again delayed its climate change disclosure rulemaking.

Changes to the EU’s Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) 2.0 are likely following a September 2023 review.

Sometime in 2024, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s updated Green Guides are expected to update what “greenwashing” means in business and marketing.

Nature and biodiversity

The EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), requiring companies to disclose their risks from environmental and social factors, takes effect Jan. 1.

COP16, the 16th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, will take place in Colombia from Oct. 21 to Nov. 1.

Revised or updated National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs), including national targets, are due by COP16. 

By Dec. 30, operators and traders must prove deforestation-free sourcing for targeted commodities in the EU market. That’s the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) compliance deadline.

Food and agriculture

The EU CSRD goes into effect as 2024 begins, influencing supply chain impact disclosure and bringing new evidence of deforestation.

Supply chains risk disruptions if the U.S. Farm Bill continues to stall in Washington in 2024.

Watch for the next steps from the hundreds of nations that signed sustainable food declarations at COP28.

Transport

The U.S. Departments’ of Treasury and Energy rules go into effect, barring vehicles with battery components from a “foreign entity of concern” from consumer tax credits. 

The IRS expands its EV tax benefit by letting consumers choose between claiming a credit on their tax returns or using the credit to lower a car’s purchase price.

The ReFuelEU aviation initiative goes into effect Jan. 1 to advance sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) in the European Union. It also requires aircraft operators and EU airports to work towards emission reductions and to ensure a level playing field for airlines and airports.

In January, the EU extends its cap-and-trade Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) to regulate CO2 from large ships of any flag entering its ports.

The U.S. Department of Energy will release an updated Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) model by March 1.

Circular economy

A hoped-for Global Plastics Treaty in 2024 moves forward with INC-4 meetings expected in April in Ottawa and INC-5 by November in Korea.

California, Maine, Oregon and Colorado are working on enforcement rules and other fine print for their new extended producer responsibility (EPR) packaging laws.

EU battery regulations are gradually being introduced, encouraging a circular economy for batteries.

Energy

At COP28, the U.S. announced new rules to cut methane emissions in oil and gas production, likely to change the energy cost equation. Watch for progress from 150 countries pledging two years ago to cut methane by 30 percent by 2030.

The Biden administration will be giving out $7 billion for its Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs (H2Hubs).

2024 will be a watershed year for microgrids moment: Interconnection backlogs are creating a new value-add for microgrids, especially as the macrogrid can’t keep up with electricity demand.

Buildings

Watch the 28 countries agreeing at COP28 for “near-zero” buildings by 2030 through the Buildings Breakthrough.

Applications are due and funding will be announced for the EPA’s $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, backing climate tech and moving money into communities.

Applications for the EPA’s Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) grants are due Jan. 16 from manufacturers.

What’s ‘Greenwashing’ and How Can I Avoid It?

By:  Jacqueline Poh
View the original article here

Over the last decade, companies and investors have come to pay more attention to environmental concerns, often with a goal of offering “green” products or making “green” investments. But the companion of green is often what’s known as greenwashing. In some countries, regulators are trying to clean up the field, launching investigations and levying fines. They have the backing of some advocates of environmentally minded investing worried that greenwashing’s taint may undermine the field.

1. What is greenwashing?

It’s the use of misleading labels or advertising to create an undeserved image of environmental responsibility. Here are some eamples:

  • In December, the UK’s antitrust regulator began an investigation of Unilever Plc, the maker of Dove soap and Cif cleaner, for allegedly overstating the environmental qualities of certain products.
  • Fashion companies Asos and Boohoo and airlines such as Air France-KLM, and Deutsche Lufthansa AG were told by regulators to discontinue misleading ads that made air travel seem more eco-friendly than it is.
  • In investing, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority rolled out a framework in November designed to protect retail investors from misleading claims by firms with so-called ESG funds — where investment decisions are shaped by environmental, social or governance factors.
  • In the US, Deutsche Bank AG’s DWS asset management arm agreed in September to pay a total of $25 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission probes into alleged greenwashing and anti-money laundering lapses. The penalties included $19 million for “materially misleading statements” about how the bank incorporated ESG factors into research and investment recommendations.

2. What’s the incentive for greenwashing?

The ultimate attraction is the favorable image companies project across to clients, investors, shareholders, lenders and even potential employees. But different players have different reasons for exaggeration. When companies fudge on something they’re selling, it’s because they want environmentally minded consumers to be drawn to their products. When they’re borrowing money, they may be chasing a “greenium” — the money they can save by qualifying for the better terms lenders might extend to green or social projects or to ones with ESG goals. Brazil raised $2 billion in the bond market in November 2023 with proceeds earmarked for green and social work, and the debt was priced lower than initial guidance – meaning the Amazon forest nation is paying lower interest rates, compared with a conventional bond. And investment managers might put a greener label than is warranted on a fund to draw in more assets.

3. How big a problem is it?

In 2022, Bloomberg News analyzed more than 100 bonds worth almost $70 billion tied to issuers’ ESG credentials that were sold by global companies to investors in Europe. The analysis found that the majority were tied to climate targets that were weak, irrelevant or even already achieved. Some companies promised to do no more than maintain their existing ESG ratings. And some of the fastest-growing areas of ESG financing involve so-called sustainability-linked loans (SLL) (and similar bonds) in which the connection between environmental labels and environmental goals can be tenuous.

4. How does sustainability-linked debt work?

Sustainability-linked bonds and sustainability-linked loans are signed with commitments from borrowers to achieve certain environmental or social targets, but those goals may be changed in an increasing number of cases. The more flexible agreements even allow issuers to adjust those targets under certain conditions without incurring a penalty. Issuers argue that they have to look for ways to cope with increasingly volatile markets in which key ESG parameters such as energy prices become harder to predict. Then there’s the “sleeping” sustainability-linked debt where financing has an ESG label but with no immediate sustainability targets. Other approaches push responsibility even further out: Bank of China Ltd.’s so-called re-linked bond sold in 2021 is tied to the performance of a pool of sustainability-linked loans made to its clients — that is, not to anything BOC is or isn’t doing in ESG terms, but to the ESG performance of the clients who have taken out those loans.

5. Who’s checking up?

There are dozens of ESG rating and data providers globally, which can provide some assurance that companies and debt issuers are doing their part in sustainability. But private ratings systems can be unreliable and corporate reporting is spotty and hard to compare. All of this greenwashing detective work would be easier if investors and the public had a standardized approach and a robust set of data to compare. Here’s some of what governments and other organizations are doing:

  • Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, India, Singapore, the UK and EU have issued or proposed rules for ESG score providers, though the rules are only mandatory in the EU and India. The UK Financial Conduct Authority, meanwhile, has unveiled its Sustainability Disclosure Requirement ensuring investment products are accurately labeled or presented.
  • The US SEC is working on getting companies to report on their greenhouse gas emissions and other climate matters.
  • The EU enforced the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive in January 2023 which requires companies to disclose risks and opportunities arising from social and environmental issues. For the debt markets, the European Council adopted a green bond standard in October 2023 that specifies where proceeds will be invested and which activities are aligned with the EU taxonomy.
  • Financial bodies, including the International Capital Market Association which oversees the international debt capital markets, and global loan associations have drafted guidelines for ESG debt such as sustainability-linked instruments, green and social financing.

6. Is it just environmental misconduct that’s considered greenwashing?

No. Social and governance aspects have grown to be just as crucial as companies’ environmental efforts, especially since the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements began making an impact on consumers’ spending. Many corporations are using their annual sustainability reports to showcase how fair they are in equality employment or what they did to improve employee wellbeing. Given that some of these goals are hard to measure in areas where little data is available, there’s a risk in overstating the results. Of the $1.4 trillion of sustainability-linked debt with disclosed ESG goals, only $352 billion was tied to social objectives, according to BloombergNEF data.

7. How can I avoid investing in greenwashing?

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How ambitious are a company’s goals? Are they integral to its core business, or just superficial commitments? Is the company just promising to do something it would be doing anyway?
  • How specific is the timeframe? Are the goals set annually, or in a way that allows for easy monitoring?
  • Are companies looking at the full “scope” of their emissions, including the carbon released when customers use their products?
  • How much do their plans rely on the kinds of carbon “offsets” that have come under fire for not living up to their promises of environmental benefits?
  • Is there a way to check on companies’ claims, such as in an evaluation by an impartial ESG data- or ratings-provider?
  • Is a company making information about their sustainability goals accessible in a transparent and timely way?

The Importance of Energy Storage in Future Energy Supply

Reviewed by: Olivia Frost
View the original article here

Energy is vital in the modern world, powering everything from transportation and production to communication and daily services.

Image Credit: Saint-Gobain Tape Solutions

As energy consumption continues to rise with digitalization, changes in mobility, and globalization, sophisticated grids have been developed to provide energy wherever and whenever needed. However, current and past energy consumption has come at a price.

The intensive use of fossil fuels and other limited resources has led to negative impacts, and the need for a more sustainable energy supply has become one of the biggest challenges facing humankind.

Renewable Energy Production on the Rise

Issues related to health, environment, economies, geopolitical risks, dependencies on limited resources, and advancements in sustainable energy production have prompted a reevaluation of energy policy.

According to the EMBER Global Electricity Review 2022, wind and solar reached a record 10% of global electricity in 2021, with all clean power totaling about 38% of the supply.

Renewable energy supply is an important step in reducing the CO2 footprint and mitigating climate change and the consequences caused by the phenomenon. Tapes are essential in helping wind and solar energy supply get into pole position in renewable energy production and grow even further.

Using these tapes in composite molding for wind turbine blades enables manufacturers to protect molds, tool surfaces, and blades, and also helps to reduce cost, effort, and labor time.

Saint-Gobain’s special PET or PTFE tapes, such as the CHR® M-Series or CHR 2255, are designed to withstand high temperatures and can be re-used multiple times, making them an efficient and sustainable solution for large-scale wind turbine production.

These continuous process improvements are crucial to making renewable energy production more efficient and cost-effective.

Using tapes with low CoF can help reduce the rework needed and improve downstream processes’ quality, making wind turbine manufacturing more efficient. The production of larger and more efficient wind turbines will play a significant role in increasing renewable energy capacity and reducing the reliance on fossil fuels.

Figure 1. Wind and solar energy production as part of modern energy supply. 
Image Credit: ShutterStock/liyuhan

Renewable energy production is just one piece of the puzzle. To be consumed, renewable energy often needs to be transformed and transported.

Saint Gobain’s Kapton® and Nomex® tapes with high mechanical, electrical, temperature, and chemical resistance are crucial in ensuring a trouble-free energy supply through new generations of transformers and generators.

UL-recognized Kapton® and Nomex® tapes offer excellent oil compatibility, which is crucial for boosting the performance and longevity of transformers and generators. As a result, maintenance efforts in electro-mechanical applications can be minimized, and the equipment can operate at peak efficiency for longer periods.

Renewable energy sources may not be available around the clock, which creates intermittency.

Renewable electricity generation does not always align with peak demand hours, causing grid stress due to fluctuations and power peaks. Unpredictable weather events can disrupt these technologies.

The current infrastructure is mainly designed to support regional fossil fuel and nuclear plants. As a result, renewable energy often needs to be transported over long distances from the remote areas where it is produced to the regions it is consumed.

Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, can be unpredictable and generate surplus energy. Efficient storage systems are needed to store excess energy during low demand and release it when demand is high.

Image Credit: Saint-Gobain Tape Solutions

The Importance of Energy Storage in Future Energy Supply

Sustainability is a crucial factor for economic growth, and it will continue to be an important consideration in the future.

Demand for clean energy drives sustainable technology development that will impact future energy and the environment.

Stationary energy storage is essential in transitioning to a sustainable energy system with higher shares of renewable energy.

Energy storage has become a ubiquitous component of the electricity grid, leading to a boom in storage capacity worldwide as electricity is expected to make up half of the final energy consumption by 2050.

Figure 2. Global cumulative energy storage installations 2015-30, trends and forecast. Image Credit: BloombergNEF website, accessed July 2022.

Efficient and Safe Energy Supply with Stationary Energy Storage

Figure 3. Energy storage system in power grids.
Image Credit: Shutterstock/Dorothy Chiron

Optimized energy storage systems ensure grid stability and on-demand availability, preventing blackouts. They are essential in modern smart grids, meeting changing energy demands, such as electric mobility.

Energy storage provides flexibility and opportunities for remote areas using various technologies, including electro-mechanical, chemical, thermal, and electrochemical (batteries).

Advancements in battery technologies and their decreasing costs have enabled the growth of stationary energy storage. Improved energy density, cycle life, and safety have made batteries more efficient and reliable, while lower costs have made them more accessible.

Hydroelectric dams store bulk energy in the long term, while short-term energy storage is achieved through various technologies, such as electric batteries, flow batteries, flywheel energy storage, and supercapacitors.

These technologies offer different characteristics and are suitable for various applications, providing flexibility, stability, and reliability to the energy system.

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are the most widely used technology for grid-oriented rechargeable electrochemical battery energy storage systems (BESS). Sodium-ion batteries, although less common, are being developed as a potential alternative.

Sodium-ion batteries for BESS are a promising option due to the abundance of sodium resources but are still in the early stages of development. They have the potential as a cost-effective alternative to Li-ion batteries, with lower power density.

Lithium-ion batteries are well-established in the automotive industry, with higher energy density than sodium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries require high-end materials and thermal protection but are a good solution for the short-duration range. They have the potential for optimization in terms of energy density, safety, loading cycles, and cost.

As battery technology advances, materials are evolving to improve the energy density, cycle life, safety, and cost of Li-ion batteries.

Compression Pads That Combine Increased Loading Cycles and Energy Density

Compression pads with a low compression force deflection (CFD) curve can improve the lifetime, durability, and performance of Li-ion batteries in energy storage systems.

They distribute forces evenly, prevent internal damage, and reduce the risk of thermal runaway. Optimal pressure on cells can maximize loading cycles and extend battery life.

Micro-cellular polyurethane foams, such as Norseal® PF100 or PF47 Series, are designed for high energy density and optimal thickness.

They enable more cells to be packed into a single unit, increasing performance and allowing for the creation of battery energy storage systems with maximized energy density and minimized space requirements.

Maintaining a sealed environment for batteries is crucial to protect them from outside elements. Saint Gobain provides a range of battery pack housing options that include foam-in-place gasketing, silicone foam rubbers, butyl-coated PVC, and micro-cellular PUR foams.

Maximize Safety to Enhance Battery Pack Performance

Safety is critical in Li-ion battery-based energy storage as flammable materials are used to maximize performance.

Thermal Runaway Protection materials enhance the safety and reliability of battery modules and packs for BESS systems by providing thermal insulation, fire-blocking characteristics, and excellent compression set resistance.

The Norseal TRP Series prevents adjacent cells from experiencing exothermic reactions and stops thermal runaway propagation, protecting battery systems. This technology plays a crucial role in enhancing the safety and reliability of battery energy storage systems.

To regulate battery temperature, improve functionality, and extend battery life in Li-ion batteries, it is important to control heat. The ThermaCool® R10404 Series Thermal Interface Materials effectively remove excess heat, ensuring the safe and efficient operation of battery energy storage systems under demanding conditions.

The thermally conductive gap fillers act as heat sinks, allowing heat to flow away from batteries.

High-End Materials to Create Cost-Effective BESS Solutions

These solutions enable customers to design large BESS systems that are safe and reliable for long-term operation in harsh conditions. By reducing the risk of thermal runaway, this technology enhances the safety and efficiency of battery energy storage systems.

More cells in a battery pack can boost performance and longevity by offering higher energy storage capacity in a smaller space, though this can increase the risk of cell imbalance and failure.

This battery combination is ideal for decentralized and cost-effective energy production and storage in industrial buildings and private households with solar collectors.

Solutions, Know-How, and Capabilities for Next-Level BESS

Tailored materials cater to energy storage systems of various sizes and types by fulfilling their specific cushioning, compression, protection, and insulation needs. This supports the transition to a sustainable energy supply.

Specialized materials and expertise in high-performance battery pack development can aid in designing Li-ion BESS for stationary grid energy storage

Could sand be the next lithium?

By:  Shira Rubin
View the original article here

A cadre of start-ups are building batteries that can store renewable energy in natural materials such as sand, salt and rock.

(Illustration by Emily Sabens/The Washington Post; iStock)

TAMPERE, Finland — When Russia halted gas and oil exports to Europe following its invasion of Ukraine, hundreds of millions of citizens agonized over the prospect of a winter without enough heating and a summer without enough air conditioning.

But the Kremlin’s wartime strategy to shut the taps on its fossil fuels has coincided with, and also catalyzed, a critical sector for the clean energy transition — batteries made from inexpensive and abundant natural materials that store heat.

The use of sand, salt, heat, air and other elements as energy banks dates back centuries. The walls of ancient Egyptian homes captured solar heat during the day and released it during cool desert nights. Indigenous peoples across the Americas valued adobe — a composite of earth, water, and other organic materials like straw or dung — as a preferred construction material for its ability to do the same.

For modern civilizations whose industrial development has been powered by the combustion of fossil fuels, these materials offer a revolutionary premise: “Nothing is burned,” said Tommi Eronen, chief executive of Polar Night Energy, a Finnish start-up running the world’s first commercial-scale sand battery.

Natural batteries are meant to enable countries to take advantage of prodigious supplies coming from wind turbines and solar panels, when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. The price of renewables remains below the cost for fossil fuels —especially after a Russian fuel pullback drove prices across Europe to record highs — but the green energy revolution still faces a hugeobstacle: a lack of long-term, cost-efficient renewable storage.

At Polar Night Energy’s facilities in the city of Tampere and the nearby town of Kankaanpää, hulking steel vats hold heaps of sand, heated to around 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That stored energyhelps to smooth out power grid spikes and back up district heating networks, keeping homes, offices, saunas and swimming pools warm. The heat keeps flowing, even in remote areas, even as Russian fossil fuel supplies dwindle.

“Sand has almost no limits,” said Ville Kivioja, Polar Night Energy’s lead scientist, speaking over the whirring sound of the substance circulating. “And it’s everywhere.”

A Polar Night Energy sand battery. (Martti Tikka)

How natural batteries work

The sensors and valves that monitor the sand battery’s performance are relatively high-tech, said Kivioja, but, by design, the battery itself is simple.

The sand is trucked in from anywhere nearby — a demolished building site or sand dunes, for example — and costs less than a euro per ton. It is dumped into a giant vat, or “battery,” which is consistently kept hot, or “charged.”

The renewable energy from solar panels and wind turbines is converted into heat by a resistance heater, which also heats the air that swirls through the sand. A fan circulates the flow of heat continuously, until it’s ready to use. Like a boulder in the sun, the sand remains hot even after sundown — except unlike the boulder, the sand never gets cold because it’s insulated by the enormous vat. Even when the battery level is low, the temperature remains above 200 degrees Fahrenheit; when it is full, it can surpass 1,000 degrees.

The sand can hold onto the power for weeks or months at a time — a clear advantage over the lithium ion battery, the giant of today’s battery market, which usually can hold energy for only a number of hours.

Polar Night Energy prefers to use sand or sand-like materials that are not suitable for construction industry. This enables the usage of materials that are locally and commonly available or even considered as waste. (Polar Night Energy)

A natural battery rush

Unlike fossil fuels, which can be easily transported and stored, solar and wind supplies fluctuate. Most of the renewable power that isn’t used immediately is lost.

The solution is storage innovation, many industry experts agree. In addition to their limited capacity, lithium ionbatteries, which are used to power everything from mobile phones to laptops to electric vehicles, tend to fade with every recharge and are highly flammable, resulting in a growing number of deadly fires across the world.

The extraction of cobalt, the lucrative raw material used in lithium ion batteries, also relies on child labor. U.N. agencies have estimated that 40,000 boys and girls work in the industry, with few safety measures and paltry compensation.

These serious environmental and human rights challenges pose a problem for the electric vehicle industry, which requires a huge supply of critical minerals.

So investors are now pouring money into even bigger battery ventures. More than $900 million has been invested in clean storage technologies since 2021, up from $360 million the year before, according to the Long Duration Energy Storage Council, an organization launched after that year’s U.N. climate conference to oversee the world’s decarbonization. The group predicts that by 2040, large-scale,renewable energy storage investments could reach $3 trillion.

That includes efforts to turn natural materials into batteries.Once-obscure start-ups, experimenting with once-humble commodities, are suddenly receiving millions in government and private funding. There’s the multi-megawatt CO2 battery in Sardinia, a rock-based storage system in Tuscany, and a Swiss company that’s moving massive bricks along a 230-foot tall building to store and generate renewable energy. One Danish battery start-up, which stores energy from molten salt, is sketching out plans to deploy power plants in decommissioned coal mines across three continents.

“In some ways, these are some of the oldest technologies we have,” said Kurt Engelbrecht, an associate professor who specializes in energy storage at the Danish Tech University.

He and his colleagues have long been advocating for national decarbonization programs to integrate simple, natural based storage solutions,he saidbut clean batteries only began receiving real market attention as a result of energy crises of recent years.

The war in Ukraine and the subsequent political crisis over Russian oil and gas exports, was the final “tipping point,” Engelbrecht said.

The geopolitical benefits of natural batteries

Natural batteries will help renewables eclipse fossil fuels and free countries from geopolitical challenges, such as Russia’s Ukraine invasion, said Claudio Spadacini, founder of Italian company Energy Dome. The company has been considering selling a version of its CO2-based battery to clients in the United States.

“Renewables are democratic,” he said. “The sun shines everywhere and the wind blows everywhere, and if we can exploit those sources locally, using components that already exist, that will be the missing piece of the puzzle.”

But in order to succeed, natural batteries will need to provide the same kind of steady power as fossil fuels, at scale.Whether that can be achieved remains to be seen, say energy experts.

And the industry may be subject to the same pitfalls that loom over the renewables energy sector at large: Projects will need to be constructed from scratch, and they might only be adopted in developed countries that can afford such experimentation.

Lovschall-Jensen, the CEO of a Danish molten salt-based storage start-up called Hyme, says the challenge will be maintaining the same standards to which the modern world has become accustomed: receiving power, on demand, with the flip of a switch. He believes that natural batteries, though still in their infancy, can serve that goal.

“As a society that’s going away from fossil fuels, we still need something that’s just as flexible,” he said. “There’s really no other option.”

Hubs and spokes: Extending the reach of hydrogen hubs through clean transportation corridors

Written by: Jonathan Lewis and Anna Menke
View the original article here

Low-emissions hydrogen is a critical component of the climate change solution set, and it is likely to play a significant role in affordably achieving full, economy-wide decarbonization by midcentury. Electrification will achieve much of the decarbonization needed, but more than 80% of final energy use in the U.S. comes from fuels. Many existing fuel uses can be electrified, but electrifying some hard-to-abate sectors of the economy (such as long-haul heavy-duty trucking, marine shipping, and ironmaking) may be either commercially impossible or prohibitively expensive. For these sectors, we will need zero-carbon fuels, namely hydrogen and ammonia, to reach full decarbonization. Accordingly, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that the world’s demand for hydrogen could increase by almost 500% between 2020 and 2050.

To catapult the United States on a path towards commercial scale clean hydrogen production, the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) allocated $8 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE) to fund at least four Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs — or H2 Hubs — across the country. The program is designed to demonstrate viability of new production and end-use technologies for clean hydrogen, and to drastically bring the cost of production down.  

A clean hydrogen hub is a co-located network of infrastructure needed to produce, transport, store, and use clean hydrogen in a functional regional market. The program intends to demonstrate localized production and end use of hydrogen and to create a connected synergistic hydrogen economy across the United States.

In parallel to DOE’s H2 Hubs program, DOE and the Department of Transportation (DOT) are pursuing several additional measures to promote the deployment of hydrogen-fueled trucks and ammonia-powered marine vessels, including the IIJA’s National Alternative Fuel Corridors Program — a piece of the $2.5 billion Charging and Fueling Infrastructure competitive grant program that is designed to support the build-out of clean charging and fueling infrastructure projects along designated alternative fuel corridors of the National Highway System.  

Clean transportation corridors include routes for heavy-duty trucks that run on hydrogen to transport their freight across multiple states, provinces, or even countries, as well as transoceanic shipping routes for vessels that run on ammonia. In the future, clean corridors will also include airline routes serviced by aircraft that are powered by hydrogen or other zero-carbon fuels. Clean transportation corridors will be necessary to turn H2 Hubs from islands into a network, allowing hydrogen and other resources to move between hubs and simultaneously creating a steady demand base for hydrogen to fuel the transportation corridors themselves.  

Moving from competition to connection between H2 Hubs  

CATF has previously written about the elements that individual hubs should prioritize as they develop their proposals to DOE, including low-carbon production pathways, hard-to-decarbonize end uses, the creation of community and local environmental benefits, and long-term economic viability.  

On April 7, 2023, final applications were submitted from hub developers across the country hopeful to receive funding from the Department of Energy. The application process for the DOE Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs program is long and applicants have recently entered a new phase – the waiting period between application submission and award negotiations and selections. Until this point in the process, the focus and feel between hub hopefuls has been competitive with more than 20 known hub efforts competing for $8B in funding to be spread amongst the 4 to 10 hubs that will be selected by DOE. As award selections and negotiations evolve over the spring, summer, and into the fall, we expect to see more tangible production proposals, off-taker agreements, robust community engagement efforts, and greater collaboration and coordination between the various hub efforts.  

In addition to getting specific within each hub proposal, this phase of the program creates an opportunity for hub developers and the Department of Energy to start thinking collaboratively.  Proactive planning to connect hubs can strengthen individual proposals and improve the likelihood of long-term success for the collective H2 Hubs program. As the Department of Energy’s Clean Hydrogen Liftoff report points out, the development of ‘midstream infrastructure’ will be crucial to getting hydrogen to commercial scale. For the H2 Hubs program, this midstream infrastructure will include hydrogen storage, carbon storage, and transportation infrastructure. The ability to move hydrogen efficiently and safely between hubs — while minimizing hydrogen leaks throughout the process — will be an essential part of the H2 Hubs program. There is the potential to create a national network that simultaneously allows for distribution and hydrogen refueling across the country while bolstering demand for hydrogen and creating benefits for communities.  

The importance of linking clean transportation corridors and H2 Hubs 

Clean transportation corridors have the potential to bolster the economic viability of H2 Hubs and create benefits to communities. To date, Congress and the U.S. DOE have focused primarily on supply-side policies for hydrogen; including the Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs Program and the Hydrogen Production Tax credit (45V). Recently, focus has begun to shift to demand-side measures that could help give certainty to hub developers that off takers will be there for the hydrogen they produce. DOE and DOT’s investments in and development of clean, hydrogen-fueled transportation corridors will aid in demand-side certainty for H2 Hubs in two ways:  

  1. Clean transportation corridors that support trucks and marine vessels that run on hydrogen or hydrogen-based fuels will broaden the market for low-carbon hydrogen by increasing demand beyond the industrial off takers that are typically located next door to hydrogen production sites. 
  2. The corridors will also expand the geographic reach of H2 Hubs by extending demand for decarbonized hydrogen along spokes — i.e., highways and/or marine shipping routes — that connect each hub region to other cities and ports.     

Additionally, clean transportation corridors have an important role not only in curbing harmful CO2 emissions but also in curbing conventional air pollutants from diesel powered trucking which disproportionately affect environmental justice communities across the country. As H2 Hubs evaluate the benefits they may be able to create for communities near and far, they should consider the transportation routes stemming from their hubs that could transition to be hydrogen-fueled clean transportation corridors and should begin benchmarking the public health benefits that may accrue to communities as a result.  

The first awardees of the DOE and DOT clean transportation corridors grant program were announced in February and include several awardees focused on developing hydrogen-fueled clean transportation corridors:  

  • CALSTART: East Coast Commercial ZEV Corridor along the I-95 freight corridor from Georgia to New Jersey.  
  • Cummins Inc.: MD-HD ZEV Infrastructure Planning with Focus on I-80 Midwest Corridor serving Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio.  
  • GTI Energy: Houston to Los Angeles (H2LA)–I-10 Hydrogen Corridor Project.  
  • Utah State University: Wasatch Front Multi-Modal Corridor Electrification Plan for the Greater Salt Lake City Region.  

CATF sees a key opportunity for H2 Hubs and clean corridors grant recipients to coordinate to develop an interconnected hydrogen network across the United States.  

Imagining hubs connected via clean transportation corridors  

Given that around half of the hydrogen production in the United States currently takes place in the Gulf Coast, let’s assume the example of a hydrogen hub depicted in the graphic above is in the Houston region. If a Houston-based hub were to be selected, there would be at least three and at most nine other hydrogen hubs under development in the United States per the requirements of IIJA’s Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub provision. Meaning, the hypothetical hub in Houston isn’t the only one of its kind, and a hydrogen-powered truck that fuels up in Houston isn’t limited to conducting only local deliveries. There are other places it could carry its freight to, if those places — and the routes along the way — also have hydrogen fueling capacity.  

If a hub in Chicago and the Upper Midwest/Great Lakes region was also selected, the ability to move goods between Houston and Chicago and points in between would improve the use-case for hydrogen trucks purchased in those regions — which in turn would benefit hydrogen truck manufacturers, producers of low-carbon hydrogen, and, most pertinently, air quality and the climate. 

The success of this Houston-Chicago clean hydrogen corridor could be replicated with corridors that connect those regions to other potential hosts of federally backed regional clean hydrogen hubs. Once there are hydrogen production facilities in places like Los Angeles, New Orleans, and New York, along with hydrogen fueling stations along the interstate highways that connect them, the viability of hydrogen-fueled trucks would improve dramatically, the market for low-emissions hydrogen would increase, and both sectors would benefit from growing economies of scale. 

The success of this Houston-Chicago clean hydrogen corridor could be replicated with corridors that connect those regions to other potential hosts of federally backed regional clean hydrogen hubs. Once there are hydrogen production facilities in places like Los Angeles, New Orleans, and New York, along with hydrogen fueling stations along the interstate highways that connect them, the viability of hydrogen-fueled trucks would improve dramatically, the market for low-emissions hydrogen would increase, and both sectors would benefit from growing economies of scale. 

Concluding: How DOE and hub developers can support the development of clean transportation corridors  

Building synergistic linkages between H2 Hubs and clean trucking and shipping corridors requires multi-market investments by fuel providers, fleet owners, and other market participants; support and coordination from federal and state agencies; and constructive input and oversight from communities, NGOs, and universities. 

As discussed above, DOE, DOT, and other U.S. government agencies are working on multiple fronts to implement key provisions in the IIJA and the Inflation Reduction Act that will support the deployment of clean energy production and utilization technologies including hydrogen and zero emissions vehicles. More can be done, however, to ensure that the H2 Hubs and clean corridors programs are well coordinated. The seven grant recipients of DOE and DOT’s program “to accelerate the creation zero-emission vehicle corridors” cover highway systems across the country and meanwhile, nearly every state in the U.S. is represented in the hub projects proposed to DOE’s H2 Hubs program. The extent to which the seven funded corridor efforts match up geographically with regional hydrogen hub efforts is not yet known, because the Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs program funding recipients will not be announced until later this year. 

may proceed irrespective of DOE funding decisions. Accordingly, CATF is connecting with DOE, hydrogen hub developers, trucking companies, and others to spotlight the opportunities for constructively linking clean corridor development and H2 Hub development. We’re encouraging H2 Hub project developers to look for ways to integrate clean corridor plans into their strategy, in part by involving entities like Cummins, GTI Energy, CALSTART, and Utah State University that received initial clean corridor grants from DOE and plan to support hydrogen refueling infrastructure as part of their projects.    

Given the likely importance of hydrogen to the decarbonization of long-haul heavy-duty trucks, DOE and DOT should account for H2 Hub development when determining when and how to expand the clean corridors program, and the agencies should prioritize the development of hydrogen fueling infrastructure along routes that span between H2 Hub regions. Additionally, H2 Hub applicants and DOE should consider how clean corridors can be leveraged to improve demand-side certainty and to create meaningful benefits for communities. As selections are announced later this fall, CATF looks forward to collaborating with clean corridor grant recipients, H2 Hub awardees, and other stakeholders to support the development of a connected clean hydrogen ecosystem across the United States.  

Green hydrogen: Loaded up and (long-haul) trucking

By Joseph Webster and William Tobin
View the original article here

Long-haul trucking is a highly promising use case for the US hydrogen industry, and California and Texas are two large potential markets for pioneering hydrogen-fueled trucking. Both states have excellent green hydrogen potential and are taking initial steps to become hydrogen trucking hubs. When it comes to decarbonizing heavy-duty transportation, hydrogen is here for the long-haul. 

Cleaning up hydrogen

Today, the vast majority of hydrogen is produced from reforming the methane in coal or natural gas in a process that produces ten times more carbon dioxide than hydrogen by mass. It is principally used for refining heavy sour oil and producing ammonia for fertilizer. 

The most promising pathways to create zero-carbon clean hydrogen at scale are through renewables-produced green hydrogen or nuclear-powered pink hydrogen, both of which use zero-carbon electricity to separate hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis. There is also blue hydrogen, which comes from natural gas in a process paired with carbon capture. Blue hydrogen’s role in decarbonization, however, is contingent on the mass buildout of carbon transportation and storage infrastructure.

If deployed judiciously, clean hydrogen can have a meaningful impact on lowering emissions in hard-to-electrify sectors, which require a chemical feedstock, long-duration energy storage, or extreme heat.

Long-haul trucking is a viable clean hydrogen offtaker

For most forms of transportation, growing economies of scale have given batteries an edge over hydrogen fuel cells. However, long-haul trucking—which accounts for 7 percent of transportation emissions—may be too high a fence for batteries to climb.

As a vehicle becomes heavier, its battery must expand proportionately in volume to provide the requisite power. Electric freight tractors use battery packs that are significantly heavier than the weight of diesel a truck typically carries, which decreases range and payload capacity while requiring more frequent charging. This is meaningful in the freight industry, where time is precious, and downtime can come at a cost of over $50 per hour before accounting for costs of charging. An electric long-haul truck takes thirty minutes to charge to only 70 percent capacity even with megawatt charging.  In comparison, hydrogen re-fueling can be done quickly. Refueling a hydrogen truck takes ten minutes.

Hydrogen fuel cell trucks are therefore likely to edge out batteries for trips surpassing 180 miles and payloads above 24,000 pounds, according to an industry study.

The US Department of Energy estimates that total cost of ownership for hydrogen fuel cell long-haul vehicles will become affordable by 2030 thanks to new production tax credits for clean hydrogen. Furthermore, the department cites evidence that the long-haul trucking sector is willing to pay a premium for clean hydrogen. This outcome, however, is contingent on a buildout of refueling infrastructure along freight corridors. To boost demand, infrastructure could be built along freight lines that support high volumes of freight, such as near seaports. This can help medium-sized refueling stations reach their breakeven utilization rate. To do so, industry and policymakers must overcome a chicken-and-egg problem. The development of refueling infrastructure is critical to enable hydrogen-powered long-haul trucks, and—conversely—hydrogen refueling stations will rely on long-haul trucking for their income, as hydrogen uptake in transportation is likely to be confined to this sector.

California and Texas: Unlikely hydrogen trucking partners

California and Texas are important players in both green hydrogen and long-haul trucking.

Not only do the two states have the largest populations and economies in the country, but they also have outstanding green hydrogen potential.

Both California and Texas have excellent renewable resources, including solar and wind. The two states have deployed nearly 74 gigawatts of solar and wind capacity with another 36 GW in development.

Texas and California are the nation’s largest and second-largest renewables generators. As more renewable electricity production grows in these states, so will green hydrogen capacity—although there will be tensions between providing renewables for power generation or hydrogen.

Long-haul trucking is a natural use case for green hydrogen in both states. Texas and California are the country’s largest users of diesel for the transportation sector, consuming 633,000 barrels per day in 2021, or about 21 percent of total US diesel demand. Both states rely heavily on trucking to transport cargo from ports along the coast of California and Texas to destinations further inland. Indeed, Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Houston are the country’s first, second, and fifth-largest container ports by volume, respectively.

There is already evidence that Texas and California’s long-haul trucking sectors could see synergies between ports and green hydrogen production. California provides fiscal support for zero-emissions vehicles, plans to end the sale of fossil fuel-powered medium- and heavy-duty trucks by 2036, and continues to develop hydrogen refueling infrastructure. Tellingly, Hyundai Motor will soon operate thirty fuel cell electric trucks in California; Hyundai states this deployment will mark the largest commercial deployment of fuel cell electric trucks in the United States in the super-large vehicle class. In North Texas, Air Products and AES are teaming up to construct the country’s largest green hydrogen facility to service the trucking industry.

The trucking fleet is replaced very rapidly: the average lifespan of a super-large class truck is eight years, while the median truck on the road today is approximately six years old. In comparison, personal vehicles are replaced on average only every ten and a half years. Moreover, unlike the personal vehicle segment, most long-haul trucks are procured by fleet owners who pay very close attention to the total cost of ownership, not just the sticker price. If hydrogen-fuel trucks become more competitive than their diesel counterparts, there could be a relatively rapid adjustment.

Hydrogen: Here for the long-haul

Hydrogen’s technical and economic fundamentals are likely to improve as technology advances and the Inflation Reduction Act incentivizes investments in renewables. Owing to their renewables potential, large ports, and significant diesel demand, California and Texas are primed to lead the trucking market’s transformation. While trucking fleet turnover will take time, hydrogen appears poised to disrupt the US trucking market.

Pieces That Need To Fall Into Place To Make Green Hydrogen Viable

By:  Steven Carlini, VP of Innovation and Data Center
View the original article here


In the zero-carbon economy of the future, electricity will become the dominant energy but green hydrogen (and the fuels derived from it) will have a role to play as well. Making green hydrogen viable and abundant will take collaboration, effort, and investment.

Pieces that need to fall into place to make green hydrogen viable

Hydrogen definitely has a role to play in global decarbonization. In the decarbonized world of the future, electricity will become the dominant energy with a 60-70% share in 2050, biofuels will rise, dependence on fossil-based energy will significantly decrease and hydrogen will increase. I want to focus on green hydrogen – derived from water using electrolysis since it is the most promising. In my estimation, green hydrogen will rise between 3 – 10 times the 90 Mt of hydrogen used today by 2050. The 3X – 10X projection goes from a very conservative 270 Mt (3X) to an aggressive 900 Mt (10X). So why is there such a large gap if green hydrogen is the energy source needed for hard-to-abate applications? Mainly because there are 10 significant “pieces” of the puzzle that must come together to produce green hydrogen at the scale needed.

1) Renewable Generation Electricity Capacity – Green hydrogen must be derived through electrolysis which is highly energy intensive. For hydrogen to be green the process must be electrified using a sustainable source (hydro, wind, or solar). How much? The electricity required by 2050 for decarbonized electrification and green hydrogen production of 900 Mt (10X) is estimated to be 130,000 TWh – around 5X today’s total electrical supply of 27,000 TWh. By 2050 using the 900 Mt (10X) green H2 assumption, 30% of electricity use will be dedicated to producing clean hydrogen and its derivatives, such as e-ammonia and e-methanol.

2) Electrolyzer Capacity – Once there is sufficient renewable generation, the capacity of electrolyzer plants needs to match. According to Bloomberg NEF, today’s global electrolyzer capacity of 300 MW must grow to 3000 GW by 2050 to meet clean hydrogen demands of 900 Mt (10X). IEA estimates that every month from January 2030 onwards, three new hydrogen-based industrial plants must be built.

3) Total Cost of green hydrogen – Green hydrogen is fundamentally tied to the cost of renewable electricity, the cost of clean water, CapEx cost of electrolyzer plants, the efficiency of the electrolyzer plant, and finally the cost of storing and transporting the green hydrogen. Today, green hydrogen can cost around €2.5-€5/kg, making it significantly more expensive than the fossil fuel alternatives. Levelized prices need to fall to €1.5/kg by 2050 and possibly sub-€1/kg, to make it competitive with natural gas. However, there are incentives from governments around the world to bring the price down. In the US part of the Inflation Reduction Act created new provisions for clean hydrogen. Under the law, clean hydrogen plants in 2023 can receive a production tax credit up to $3 per kg of hydrogen, for the first 10 years of operation through 2032.

4) Electrolyzer cost – the total installed costs of a GW scale industrial electrolysis plant is currently around 1400 €/kW for Alkaline electrolyzer technology and 1800 €/kW for PEM electrolyzer technology. These need to drop at least 50% by 2050 for green hydrogen to be cost-competitive. However, CapEx improvement plans cannot be a tradeoff resulting in reduced electrolyzer efficiency or durability.

5) Electrolyzer efficiency – Today’s efficiency hovers around 50%. To meet the cost targets, the consensus in the industry is that efficiency needs to continuously improve and be at 75% by 2050. This is a major engineering challenge, plus there is efficiency degradation every year as well.

6) Water Supply – Fresh or clean water must be used in electrolysis. Ocean or salt water (sometimes called seawater) cannot be used. Clean water can be aggregated from collecting rainwater or from a process called desalination. Desalination using reverse osmosis is another very energy-intensive process that also outputs brine (salt-dense water) as a byproduct.

7) Storage – Ideally, electrolysis plants should be located in areas that have abundant renewable electrical power and fresh water. Consumption in the future will likely be places like marinas for ships/vessels and airports for long-haul planes as well as strategic places in the electrical distribution system at the turbine or areas requiring grid stabilization. This means compression, storage, and transportation will be needed. Hydrogen does not degrade over time and can be stored indefinitely. In a gaseous form, it can be stored in ways: pressurized steel tanks and underground reservoirs or salt caverns (for large capacity). Hydrogen can also be liquefied. This would deliver about 75% higher energy density than gaseous hydrogen (stored at 700 bar), But it would waste the equivalent of 25%-30% of the energy contained in the hydrogen to liquefy.

8) Transportation Grid – Moving gaseous hydrogen from the place where it is derived to the place where it will be used is not a straightforward process. There is no piping infrastructure like there is with oil and natural gas pipelines or distribution grids. Because hydrogen is such a small and potentially combustible element, constructing a pipeline is quite challenging.

9) Demand side efficiencies – Just like miles per gallon affects how much fuel a car uses, all applications using electricity or hydrogen need to be made more efficient. A massive effort is required to modernize the existing stock of inefficient assets (buildings, mobility, industrial facilities, and machines, etc.), for higher efficiency or adapt to fun on hydrogen.

10) Funding – In total, investments could amount to almost $15 trillion between now and 2050 – peaking in the late 2030s at around $800 billion per annum1 for 900 Mt (10X). Of this, about $12.5 trillion (85%) relates to the required increase in electricity generation, with only 15% (peaking at almost $150 billion per annum in the late 2030s) relating to an investment in electrolyzer, production facilities, and transport and storage infrastructure. This investment must be coordinated between private-sector action and national and local governments.

The 10 “pieces” of the puzzle that must come together are significant. As with all puzzles, if a single piece is missing, the puzzle is ruined and the 3X scenario would be more likely than the 10X. We have no choice but to put this puzzle together and in this case, we must have all of the pieces in order to meet decarbonization targets and have green hydrogen play its critical role in the effort to halt global warming.