NextEra Energy plans to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, saying it can do so without using offsets through renewable hydrogen.
The Juno Beach, Florida-based company wants to convert more than two-thirds of its natural gas power plants to run on hydrogen. This is being touted as one of the “biggest bets yet to make hydrogen a central piece of the energy landscape,” in a recent Bloomberg article.
“In my opinion, when NextEra makes a move, you want to pay attention,” said Mike Hopkins, CEO of Bakken Energy. “It is usually very telling on where we are in the hydrogen space. This can be a really good use of hydrogen as a means of decarbonization and I think it’s just another big step in this evolution of market development for clean hydrogen and for trucking.”
This hydrogen or “fuel” would be produced by renewable energy such as solar and wind, using devices known as electrolyzers. Hydrogen does not release carbon dioxide when burned, which is the biggest reason for this switch.
The future goal of NextEra is to use its technology to be producers of green hydrogen, with the hope that it would then be used by other industries, including transportation.
Although there is fear this would slow down adoption on the transportation side due to the increasing demand of power plants, Hopkins believes it will do the opposite and instead accelerate and make the adoption of these practices in other industries even easier.
“Regarding decarbonization in trucking, because of the limited options compared to power generation, this is a high value proposition for the trucking industry,” Hopkins said.
But despite these goals, there are challenges. Similar to those associated with electric vehicles (EVs), the biggest challenges include technology and infrastructure and the funding of those items.
The process of transporting hydrogen is dangerous and would require thorough inspections of gas pipelines to ensure no leaks are present since the gas is extremely flammable.
“The more use of hydrogen you have, the more infrastructure you’ll develop, which continues to be the missing link here,” Hopkins said. “We know how to produce it. That’s for sure. More and more people are learning how to consume it, but there is still a gap regarding infrastructure.”
If the infrastructure is properly funded and built out, hydrogen could be a huge asset in the transportation industry in the years to come, including vehicle batteries and producing power and electricity for EV charging stations.
NextEra is not only committing to renewable hydrogen practices but also to being involved in infrastructure plans and the push for it in the U.S. — both absolutely necessary for the shift to renewable hydrogen.
“When they talk about wanting to be involved with infrastructure, I suspect that it’s because they want to move hydrogen to other markets — markets like long-haul trucking,” Hopkins said.