A groundbreaking plan to create an offshore wind-powered hydrogen power industry cluster in southern Louisiana has been awarded $50 million by the Build Back Better Challenge, the US Economic Development Administration announced earlier this month. H2theFuture, which will create an industrial cluster for wind-powered hydrogen in southern Louisiana, won an EDA Build Back Better Challenge Award.
The project is among 21—from 529 submissions and 60 finalists—selected for funding through the 2021 American Rescue Plan competitive grant program. The $1 billion BBB initiative is described by the Department of Commerce as “the most impactful regional economic development contest in decades.” The program aims to spur economic recovery and rebuild communities through transformative investments in regional industrial clusters. Louisiana’s winning proposal — led by Greater New Orleans Inc. and its subsidiary, the Greater New Orleans Development Foundation — sets out a roadmap for decarbonizing Louisiana’s manufacturing sector while creating new energy sector jobs.
The federal grant is matched by $24.5 million in matching funding from the State of Louisiana, bringing the total project size to $74.5 million.
“Today’s announcement by President Biden and Secretary of Commerce Raimondo is a significant milestone in Louisiana’s transition to a cleaner, more sustainable and more diverse energy future,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement announcing the award. “As the first southern Gulf state to implement a climate action plan, Louisiana has demonstrated the vision and leadership needed to meet the historic challenge of climate change. This injection of federal and state dollars, in addition to the nearly $20 billion in private equity investments in Louisiana emissions reduction projects announced in the last two years alone, brings us closer to the ultimate goal: net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
The H2theFuture proposal includes safeguards to ensure business, procurement and training opportunities are available to all stakeholders and communities. The plan also prioritizes protecting aging energy industry workers by creating reskilling programs that shift traditional skills to low-carbon processes.
“Since day one, President Biden has been focused on ensuring economic opportunity is provided for all Americans, especially communities struggling with decades of divestments or suffering from economic hardship exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic,” said US President Trade Minister Gina Raimondo. “As we invest in and grow important industries in the United States, we aim to create industrial hubs in various communities across the country. These grants will provide important and historic funds directly to community coalitions to invest in new infrastructure, research and development, and workforce development programs while creating high-paying jobs, empowering workers, and prioritizing equity.”
H2theFuture would effectively create a new clean energy business model in Louisiana consisting of five interconnected workflows:
• Workforce Training (H2W) to “up-skill” displaced oil and gas workers, rural residents and minorities, conducted by the Louisiana Community & Technical College System.
• Business Development (H2BD) to bring new and existing local and regional energy companies into the hydrogen value chain, led by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, in partnership with One Acadiana, South Louisiana Economic Council, Southwest Louisiana Economic Alliance and GNO Inc.
• University-based testbeds (H2T) to conduct research on low-carbon hydrogen technologies at Nicholls State University, Louisiana State University, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the University of New Orleans.
• Public-private partnerships (H2P3) to “de-risk” commercial-scale green hydrogen investments, beginning with the development of a first-ever hydrogen fueling barge in the Port of South Louisiana.
• Organizational and Governance ‘Nexus’ (H2N) to create a Green Hydrogen Planning Center focused on industrial growth and sustainability to be located within The Beach at UNO.
“We are grateful for the vision of the US Department of Commerce and the Department of Economic Development in making H2theFuture possible,” said Michael Hecht, CEO and President of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “Additionally, we want to acknowledge that this exciting project has been completed together.” because of the work and trust of two dozen organizations in southern Louisiana, and we extend our thanks to these excellent partners as well.”
In addition to GNO Inc., the coalition of 25 organizations that developed the H2theFuture plan includes the South Louisiana Regional Economic Development Organizations and Regional Planning Commissions; the port of southern Louisiana; four public research universities (LSU, ULL, UNO, and Nicholls State) and four HBCUs (Dillard University, Southern University, and A&M College at Baton Rouge, Southern University of New Orleans, and Xavier University of Louisiana); the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, representing eight community colleges in southern Louisiana; and several organizations focused on justice, including the Urban League of Louisiana and the Louisiana Parole Project.
“Securing one of the coveted Build Back Better Challenge awards solidifies Louisiana’s status as a global leader in energy transition and a premier location for renewable energy investment and innovation,” said LED Secretary Don Pierson. “An economic development project of this scale and complexity requires an exceptional level of collaboration and collaboration among stakeholders. LED is proud to have played a role in leveraging existing business partnerships and building new partnerships to advance our entire state.”
Green hydrogen is produced by splitting water (H2O) using electrolysers powered by renewable energy such as wind; The carbon-free feedstock can then be used to power advanced manufacturing, commercial-scale transportation, and other energy-intensive processes. A study commissioned by the Coalition concluded that H2theFuture could halve total emissions from hydrogen in Louisiana, equivalent to millions of tons of CO2 that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.
“Louisiana has a long and proud history of supporting energy generation on and off our coasts,” said Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources Thomas Harris. “This is an opportunity to continue that tradition in the transition to a lower carbon future and more diversified energy sources. Both wind and hydrogen are expected to be important tools in Louisiana’s future carbon management efforts.”
“Louisiana is already ‘Ground Zero’ for Net Zero, with projects worth over $18 billion in renewable biofuels, blue and green production of hydrogen and ammonia, advanced recycling and carbon capture,” said Adam Knapp, President and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. “This EDA grant will capitalize on that momentum and help anchor a new sector and supply chain from the decarbonization effort across the South Louisiana Industrial Corridor.”