Hydrogen: The Time Is Now
A Fireside Chat Recap

Watch the full conversation HERE.

Collaboration, Technologies, Talent.

These three themes dominated the discussion between two leaders passionate about decarbonization and the role hydrogen will play in achieving global net-zero goals. Dr. Alexander N. Cartwright, President of the University of Central Florida (UCF), and Mr. Bill Newsom, President and CEO of Mitsubishi Power Americas, provided their insight during a fireside chat at the UCF Hydrogen Forum, an event bringing together experts from academia, the government, and industry to focus on what it will take to create a hydrogen economy.

As companies and countries strive toward net-zero carbon goals — many targeting the year 2050 — hydrogen is gaining momentum as a key technology that will enable them to reach these goals. While the path toward a hydrogen economy looks promising, it is complex and will require overcoming large hurdles, such as scaling production, storage, and distribution.

Newsom noted that we are at a landmark time with the recent Inflation Reduction Act’s $369 billion in clean energy climate provisions, including a stand-alone $3 per kilogram hydrogen production tax credit. It will be a game changer for bringing hydrogen to scale and helping move the energy transition forward to ensure clean, reliable, affordable, and accessible power generation. 

The power generation sector has seen big successes in achieving 40% reduction in carbon emissions in the in the last two decades, yet Newsom notes that it still has a long way to get to net zero. “One thing is very clear,” he said. “We have to have unprecedented collaboration to meet this moonshot goal. It will take diverse ideas and innovation and forward-thinking team members to get us there.”

Cartwright concurred that to attain our goals we need to focus on our strengths to move forward on these tough challenges with the collaboration of all stakeholders, educational institutions, industry, and government. 

Both Mitsubishi Power and UCF are working toward decarbonization goals that will help society as a whole. The presidents used the forum as a call to action to create an ecosystem for clean energy, using their successes as examples and as a springboard for future action.

Newsom called for looking at hydrogen from two lenses: hydrogen as long-duration energy storage and hydrogen as a fuel. He said we need to bring it to scale with sector coupling and reduce production costs to make it a cost-effective source of zero-carbon fuel.

As one example of the type of collaboration needed to advance the clean energy landscape, Newsom pointed to the Advanced Clean Energy Storage hub, a Mitsubishi Power partnership with Magnum Development. The world’s largest industrial green hydrogen facility draws upon the ingenuity, technology, experience, and resources of many entities. It will produce green hydrogen using electrolysis powered by renewable energy, store the green hydrogen in massive underground geological caverns, and make it available for dispatch as a 100% decarbonized fuel. The DOE recently closed a $504.4 million loan for the hub, its first loan in more than 10 years for a renewable energy project. 

The hub will provide green hydrogen to the Intermountain Power Agency’s IPP Renewed Project, which is replacing a coal plant with a hydrogen-capable gas turbine combined-cycle power plant. The plant will run on a blend of 30% green hydrogen and 70% natural gas starting in 2025 and incrementally move to 100% green hydrogen by 2045.

Newsom stressed that collaborations like these — not only within the power industry, but also with other sectors — will help us develop the zero-carbon fuels to electrify hard to abate areas such as long-haul transportation, steel manufacturing, cement, and agriculture.

Likewise, Cartwright explained that UCF views hydrogen infrastructure holistically, in a broader context than just power generation. 

UCF has invested significantly in energy centers that focus on initiatives supported by the Department of Energy, a number of which focus on resilient, intelligent, sustainable energy, including hydrogen, from both the research and education angles.

Working with multiple partners, a UCF-led team has started a 5-year, $10 million NASA-funded project on decarbonization of aviation, where ammonia will be used as a hydrogen carrier. This project will add notable research infrastructure. 

UCF is having conversations with Central Florida partners such as NASA, Kennedy Space Center, Disney, Lockheed Martin, Universal, and Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. Discussions include how to create an Orlando-based mini-hydrogen-hub that will address deployment, innovation, and research with a specific focus on tourism. UCF’s college of hospitality management is part of this effort, offering a unique opportunity to bring science to this key challenge to the region. UCF is also working with Florida A&M University and Florida State University toward a statewide consortium on hydrogen for energy, aviation, and transportation.

Additionally, UCF researchers are studying hydrogen for marine applications; specific industries such cement, steel, and specialty metals; and fertilizers for agriculture.

On the home front, UCF’s commitment to climate neutrality has led to a 40% reduction in energy consumption per gross square foot on campus since 2005, solar-power installations, a STARS Silver designation, and innovative research collaborations. The university has community partnerships and research aimed at solving the technical challenges of zero-carbon electricity and net zero by 2050. 

Faculty members are continuously thinking about newer courses and certificates that can address education and training needs for the next generation of engineers in a decarbonized future.

Newsom noted the impact that a relationship with UCF makes at Mitsubishi Power, both by providing the company with more than 1,000 well-prepared interns since 2006, to the approximately 30% of its engineering and manufacturing workforce that is UCF alumni. 

“Our goal is that UCF is seen as a university without borders, where it is easy for people to enter in, collaborate with us, and advance on shared interests and goals, while always thinking about the impact we are having on the world. And that I think allows us then to move forward — whether that is building the infrastructure that is needed, advancing research, or providing a vital education, that is what we are going to continue doing,” Cartwright added.

For the full conversation and a deeper dive into decarbonization projects and collaborations mentioned, watch the fireside chat HERE.