Did you know that today is National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day? The date for this clean energy holiday was chosen because numerically Oct. 8 refers to the atomic weight of hydrogen (1.008).
Piloting hydrogen innovations is an integral part of our commitment to a clean energy future. We are working to place two green hydrogen projects into service by the end of next year. These projects will offer long-duration energy storage, increase system resiliency and reduce the carbon intensity of the energy we deliver to our customers. Today we are excited to introduce you to a member of our newly formed Hydrogen Innovation and Development team who will help bring these projects online – Melanie Davidson.
Tell us a little about yourself and your role at SDG&E.
I recently joined the newly formed hydrogen team at SDGE, where I am the Hydrogen Commercial Development manager. Before joining SDG&E, I worked at a clean energy consultancy focused on energy storage and hydrogen. I have also worked on electric vehicles, marine fuels, and cleaner solutions for upstream oil production. What I find so cool about hydrogen is its versatility – it has the potential to provide carbon-free fuel to any sector from transportation to heavy industry to power generation.
What do you find most exciting about the potential of hydrogen for the industry and SDG&E?
SDG&E is an early adopter at the forefront of the hydrogen energy revolution. I think that is why I am so proud to be part of SDG&E – the utility’s commitment to leadership in clean energy innovation is helping establish and shape the nascent low-carbon hydrogen market, address challenges head on and build public trust in hydrogen as a clean and safe alternative fuel source to natural gas.
It is fun and exciting to help imagine a hydrogen future from the beginning and a unique challenge. For example, much of the technology to make low-carbon hydrogen, such as electrolyzers and fuel cells, are relatively new. We always prioritize safety, so we must complete extra due diligence to ensure that the equipment we select will work as designed, and our vendors and partners are knowledgeable and experienced.
What is a common misperception about hydrogen and fuel cells?
Many people do not realize that hydrogen is a well-established commodity that has been safely produced, stored and transported for decades for use in chemical and refinery applications. The U.S. makes and sells over 10 million tons of hydrogen every year and has over a thousand miles of dedicated hydrogen pipeline installed and operating today, including in Los Angeles.
What do you predict for the next five years that might shape the future for hydrogen?
I think the next five years will be transformative for hydrogen. Energy storage has grown leaps and bounds in the last five years, and I think we can expect similar momentum for hydrogen. Right now, the federal government is considering approving billions of dollars to support hydrogen hubs across the country and looking at a hydrogen production tax credit for low carbon intensity (CI) hydrogen. If this funding comes through, it would be a game-changer by significantly reducing the price of clean hydrogen, making it a more attractive alternative to natural gas, gasoline and diesel.
Similarly, support for hydrogen in California by the CEC (California energy Commission) and CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission) can help accelerate this carbon-free molecule through policy mechanisms and expanding programs that can help close the pricing gap between clean hydrogen and fossil fuels.
As someone who has dedicated her career to clean technology, what three things do you do at home to be environmentally mindful?
I try to do my part in a few ways. I am a hyper-diligent recycler and composter. I also limit my dependence on energy-hogging appliances. For example, I do not have a laundry dryer or air conditioner. I live by the coast, so it rarely gets hot and when it does, I run a fan. I line dry all my laundry – it is better for your clothes and the planet! I have also really cut back on meat and mainly eat a vegetarian diet. In the future, I would love to buy a hydrogen-powered car!