Could hydrogen work in Hawaii?

This story appeared in the Pacific Business News on Tuesday, November 14th

The search for alternatives to conventional combustion engines in the auto industry has for years included hydrogen, and according to a group of large multi-national companies the energy resource could supply almost a fifth of the world’s global energy by 2050.

Hydrogen, which is the most abundant element on earth, could become an important part of the world’s future energy mix and power everything from cars to factories, according to the Hydrogen Council, which includes companies such as Shell, Toyota, BMW and General Motors.

Bloomberg reported Monday that the council estimates that hydrogen, which can be extracted from water using renewable energy sources, could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 6 gigatons a year, which is more than the 5.5 gigatons released by the United States in 2016.

Hawaii-based car dealership Servco Pacific Inc. in August broke ground on the state’s first publicly publicly accessible hydrogen station. Once the station is complete, Japanese car manufacturer Toyota will offer its hydrogen fuel-cell model, the Toyota Mirai, for lease in the state. The only other U.S. state where residents will have this opportunity is California.

Due to Hawaii’s push toward a renewable energy future, hydrogen has the potential of taking on a significant role in the equation. However, according to the report, most commercial hydrogen is currently produced from natural gas, which a fossil fuel. And as Hawaii Gas pointed out, producing hydrogen in a renewable manner is currently not cost-effective.

“To get to renewable sources of hydrogen today, the most common approach is electrolysis, breaking H2O into the hydrogen and the oxygen,” Joseph J. Boivin Jr, Hawaii Gas’ senior vice president of business and corporate affairs, told Pacific Business News. “That’s done using an electrolyser, which runs by fueling it with electricity – renewable electricity, and renewable electricity from the gird to do that is quite expensive, which means your hydrogen would be quite expensive.”

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