Developing the Hydrogen Economy In New York

The coming decade will be critical in the fight against climate change, and we need to have all available tools and technologies on the table to help meet New York’s net zero by 2050 goal, especially for sectors that are difficult to decarbonize, such as industry and heavy transport. Hydrogen, the most abundant chemical element on earth, offers enormous potential as a source of clean energy. When hydrogen is converted to useable energy in a fuel cell or burned to release its energy, the only byproduct is water vapor. And when hydrogen is produced with clean energy through electrolysis, known as green hydrogen, the process is carbon free.

Hydrogen has the potential to help decarbonize multiple sectors, including power generation, transportation, and heating. Because hydrogen can be stored for long periods of time, it can play a critical role in helping to balance renewable supply with demand while maintaining reliability and resiliency. 

A “hydrogen hub” — a cluster of local hydrogen production, storage and demand — can be a great first step in developing the hydrogen economy. Long Island is well-positioned to become a hydrogen hub, given the high energy demand in the New York City metro area, limited transmission connections, and large offshore wind potential, which could be used to produce green hydrogen. National Grid envisions an integrated net zero energy system with clean electricity and clean fuels like hydrogen meeting demand for power, heat and transport.

Today, nearly two thirds of New York’s energy comes from fuels like oil and natural gas, while about a third comes from electricity. As New York transitions to a net zero economy, many end uses will shift to electricity as the power grid continues to shift to carbon-free sources such as wind and solar. To maintain the reliability of today’s multi-fuel energy system, we are also likely to need clean molecules like hydrogen to play a role alongside clean electricity in an integrated zero-carbon energy system. 

As an island with limited transmission connections, Long Island relies heavily on local power generation to meet its power needs. Historically, gas and oil power plants have met local power needs, but in the future, local power can be provided by a mix of offshore wind, solar, battery storage and hydrogen. By the 2030s, offshore wind will be able to meet a large share of Long Island’s power needs. Depending on weather and demand patterns, offshore wind could at times provide more power than the island needs, and surplus power could be used to create green hydrogen through electrolysis. For times when the wind isn’t blowing, battery storage can fill in with a typical duration of 4 hours, or hydrogen, which can be stored in tanks for several days, can be used to generate power.  

National Grid has built 80 MWh of battery storage on Long Island, which has helped to reduce peak demand and emissions, and will continue to play a valuable role in balancing renewables. National Grid also has a vision to transition traditional power plants to run on green hydrogen, serving as anchor customer to jump-start the hydrogen economy. 

As hydrogen demand grows from other sectors, such as heavy trucks, rail, ports or heating, that creates an incentive for bulk clean hydrogen production and storage. And when hydrogen consumers and producers are in close proximity, this can accelerate the development of a hydrogen supply chain and connective infrastructure, simplifying the process to produce and distribute it at scale. 

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