The continued growth of the Renewable Hydrogen Alliance confirms its founding thesis—that building an industry on the use of renewable electricity to create climate-friendly fuels will attract diverse interests. Among new RHA members is Renewable Northwest, the region’s premier renewable resource advocacy organization and one of my former employers.
It was while working for Renewable Northwest that I got my most potent lesson in the power of diversity. This began in 2009 with what appeared to be a “Nigerian Prince” type of invitation to Denmark. After some due diligence, I became convinced the government of Denmark really was inviting interested energy-sector professionals on a week-long tour of Danish sustainable energy projects. So it was that I bundled myself off to Denmark in February (!) 2010 with about half a dozen others, including Amanda Ormond of Western Clean Energy Advocates. At that time, Denmark had plans for what seemed an almost unimaginable goal of meeting 50% of its electric demand with wind power by 2020.
We learned a lot about how they were going to accomplish that goal. It was pretty impressive, and it seemed surprisingly likely they could make it to 50%. But what struck me the most was how enthusiastic everyone we talked with was about meeting the challenges: politicians, scientists, utility engineers and managers. In the US everyone seemed focused on the problems and costs of depending on variable renewable power; in Denmark they focused on solutions. With everyone working together they seemed an unstoppable force. In 2017, wind and solar accounted for 7.6% of US electric generation; Denmark’s wind fleet was a staggering 21% in 2010 and reached 43.6% in 2017. What a world of difference.
People from diverse sectors of the economy working together solve problems. It is rare that we see that kind of agreement here in the US—but in use of renewable electricity to make fuels, there is potential for such agreement because there is great commonality of interest:
- Electric utilities seeing flat or even declining demand for power need new markets, especially for surplus renewable electricity;
- Gas utilities need a way to reduce the carbon footprint of the product they deliver, and renewable hydrogen offers perhaps the only scalable solution;
- Wind and solar industries have done a remarkable job reducing costs, but because their generation often peaks at the same time, the marginal value is also rapidly declining—a problem that makes new, flexible demand for wind and solar power essential to the renewable power industry’s growth;
- Environmental groups need ways to reduce carbon emissions in sectors beyond the transmission grid, especially transportation and manufacturing, which often cannot be electrified except through use of clean fuels.
The interests of this diverse and powerful group of industries converge on the Renewable Hydrogen Alliance’s mission. Our strength lies in our ability to focus their representatives on developing a renewable-power-to-clean-fuels industry. A breakdown of RHA’s 21 members by sector demonstrates this broad appeal:
Sector Membership Count
Clean Energy Advocates 4
Electrolyzer Manufacturers 2
Legal Services 1
Clean Vehicle Advocates 1
As we continue to grow, the combination of diversity and common purpose will prove to be an irresistible force for launching the new industry. In addition to filling out the membership in these sectors, RHA is actively recruiting hydrogen vehicle manufacturers and environmental groups. If your organization is not a member of RHA, please consider joining—help us be the voice for developing clean fuels from renewable electricity.