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Department Of Energy Reports Set Pathways for Scaling Clean Energy Technologies

The Department of Energy recently unveiled a set of reports aimed at accelerating the commercialization and deployment of clean energy technologies, particularly clean hydrogen, advanced nuclear, and long-duration energy storage.

The Department of Energy says its Pathways to Commercial Liftoff initiative underscores the critical role the agency plays in enabling widespread commercial adoption of the clean energy technologies essential to meeting President Joseph Biden’s goals of achieving 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 and a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.

To meet the administration’s long-term decarbonization targets, cumulative investments in the clean hydrogen, nuclear, and long-duration energy storage sectors need to increase from about $40 billion to $300 billion by 2030 with continued acceleration until 2050, the Pathways reports concluded.

The clean hydrogen market is among the best poised to reach full-scale commercialization, according to the report on that sector. Clean hydrogen production for domestic demand has the potential to go from less than 1 million metric ton per year to about 10 million metric ton per year in 2030, the report said. It noted that most of the near-term demand will come from transitioning existing end-uses away from the current carbon-intensive hydrogen production such as from natural gas in favor of water electrolysis, but that would require up to 200 gigawatts of new renewable energy sources by 2030, the report said.

The technology is progressing thanks to programs such as the Department of Energy’s clean hydrogen hubs and the tax incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, but more work is needed to address demand uncertainty, workforce development, and other challenges before clean hydrogen can realize its full potential, the report said.

The report on energy storage noted that long-duration energy storage is still maturing but has the potential to improve grid resilience, increase the adoption of renewable power generation, and strengthen energy security. Continued development of long-duration energy storage will require further cost reductions and an increase in public and private investment, the report said.

The grid may need between 225 gigawatts and 460 gigawatts of long-duration energy storage to achieve a net zero carbon economy by 2060, representing $330 billion in cumulative capital investment, the report said. It noted, however, that long-duration energy storage could yield $10 billion to $20 billion in annualized savings in operating costs and avoided capital expenditures by 2050 compared with scenarios that do not use long-duration energy storage.

Advanced nuclear technology has the potential to provide clean, firm power that can reliably complement the buildout of renewable energy resources, and it has the potential to create long-term, high-paying jobs and to deliver economic opportunities for traditional energy producing communities that already have pre-existing power generation infrastructure, such as coal communities, the report on the sector said.

According to decarbonization models, the United States will need between 550 gigawatts and 770 gigawatts of additional clean, firm capacity to reach a net-zero economy by 2050, regardless of level of renewables deployment, according to the report. Nuclear power “is one of the few proven options that could deliver this at scale, while creating high-paying jobs with concentrated economic benefits for communities most impacted by the energy transition,” the report said.

Advanced nuclear technologies could drive United States nuclear capacity from about 100 gigawatts in 2023 to about 300 gigawatts by 2050, the report said.