Monolith Materials says its plant south of Lincoln is the largest facility of its kind in the world in producing clean hydrogen from natural gas. (Courtesy of Monolith Materials)
LINCOLN — Excitement is mounting among state leaders over the possibility that Nebraska and two neighboring states could be named a regional “hydrogen hub,” a designation that would open a door to more than $1 billion in federal funds for clean energy projects.
Gov. Jim Pillen issued a statement Thursday and included comments from the top state officials in Iowa and Missouri, who have joined with him in an agreement laying a framework for the three-state hub.
“This partnership will help grow Nebraska and the Midwest’s economy by opening the pathway for billions of dollars of new investment into our community and hundreds of new, good-paying jobs,” Pillen said. “This hydrogen hub once again shows Nebraska’s commitment to renewable energy and our leadership in improving our country’s energy security.”
The governors signed the memorandum of understanding earlier this month for the Mid-Continent Clean Hydrogen Hub, or MCH2. Under that name, the trio submitted a grant application to the U.S. Department of Energy, which is to disburse a total of about $8 million for up to 10 regional hydrogen hubs.
Hub funding was set aside in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act; hubs are to provide matching dollars.
A more formal agreement later would set forth management and other details if MCH2 were selected.
Also this week, Nebraska lawmakers gave first-round approval to a bill aimed at strengthening efforts to become a hub. Legislative Bill 565, sponsored by State Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard, seeks $500,000 in state funds over two years to provide grants for additional engineering and modeling work.
In addition, lawmakers this week advanced a proposal to second-round debate that would create a work group to determine workforce training needs of the nuclear and hydrogen industries.
Pillen and his Iowa and Missouri counterparts said in the agreement that the states are uniquely qualified and situated centrally to serve as a regional hub, given the presence of wind, solar, biomass, nuclear, agricultural and other energy resources.
They cited world-leading laboratories and academic institutions, and oil and early-stage public and private hydrogen economy development initiatives.
“Together we have an opportunity to open new markets for agriculture while strengthening our commitment to American-made renewable energy,” said Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. “As the regions’ leading states, we understand the power of coming together to create innovative solutions that grow our economies for the future.”
Said Missouri Gov. Mike Parson: “Missouri and the Midwest enjoy a diverse energy portfolio that will only be strengthened by this clean hydrogen hub partnership.”
The hub designation is expected to help communities by drawing more clean energy investments and creating good-paying jobs and better energy security.
The MCH2 team noted existing regional projects with room for growth. For example, in Nebraska, it said that Werner Enterprises has committed to using new hydrogen-fueled semi-trucks and Monolith Materials is expanding its Hallam carbon black facility.
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