Some US lawmakers are still determined to throw obstacles in the path of renewable energy, but investors just can’t resist the allure of clean power opportunities in the US. The latest example is a Danish company that bills itself as “a global leader in offshore wind.” They are aiming their financial firepower at the US green hydrogen market, with an assist from one of the largest private businesses in the country.
Leading Global Wind Developer Jumps On Green Hydrogen Bandwagon
Kicking dirty fossil fuels out of the global economy has been the focus of much attention since the early 2000’s. In more recent years hydrogen has also come under fire. Hydrogen — widely used in fuels, food systems, metallurgy, refining and other key industrial sectors — drags a supply chain that depends primarily on natural gas, with coal also playing a role.
Fossil energy stakeholders are pitching the idea that a carbon capture makeover can clean up the hydrogen supply chain. Meanwhile, though, the plunging cost of renewable energy has pulled the rug out from under them. Investors have been turning the financial spigot onto electrolysis projects, which deploy electricity from renewable resources to push so-named “green hydrogen” from water.
CleanTechnica has been spilling plenty of ink on the investment activity around green hydrogen (see more coverage here), but somehow the Danish firm Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners slipped under the radar.
CIP launched in 2012 and they have been rather busy over the past 12 years. In addition to wind, CIP also lists “solar PV, biomass and energy-from-waste, transmission and distribution, reserve capacity, storage, advanced bioenergy, and Power-to-X” among the 12 funds it manages, for a total of 26 billion euros, and now they are turning the spotlight on green hydrogen.
More Green Hydrogen For The USA
CIP’s New York headquarters puts it in the catbird seat for US energy development, where the Biden administration’s new $8 billion hydrogen hub program has taken shape. The program is funded under the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which stipulates a carve-out for conventional hydrogen. However, the main driver is green hydrogen, and CIP has not let the grass grow under its feet.
In October, CIP announced that it has hooked up with the US firm Tenaska to develop an unnamed number of “gigawatt-scale green hydrogen projects” in the US, aimed at both domestic and global markets for the hydrogen value chain including ammonia, methanol, sustainable aviation fuel, and “other clean fuels in key U.S. hydrogen markets.”
“The agreement will support the targets of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap of reaching a production of 10 million metric tonnes (MMT) of clean hydrogen annually by 2030, 20 MMT annually by 2040, and 50 MMT annually by 2050,” the partners noted in a press release dated October 26.
The two companies did not describe their plans in detail, but Tenaska Development president Joel Link is clearly ready for action.
“Green hydrogen presents exciting opportunities for the energy, transportation and agricultural sectors, among others, to meet climate and decarbonization goals,” he said, adding that “Tenaska looks forward to working with local and international consumers of hydrogen to create the right solutions for their clean energy needs.”
Leading Private US Company Hearts Hydrogen, Clean Or Not
We have some catching up to do. Tenaska is one of the biggest privately held firms in the US, having nailing down the #12 slot on Forbes magazine’s annual list of largest privately held US firms. Racking up $2 billion or more in revenue is the cutoff for making the list.
Tenaska maintains a solid footprint in the natural gas industry, but a wind and solar portfolio of more than 2.7 gigawatts indicates that the company can flex its decarbonization muscles, too. Overall, Tenaska cites a financing record that includes “$21.2 billion financed through banks, capital markets transactions and corporate facilities,” in addition to “more than $6.5 billion of acquisition financing for power generation and midstream assets.”
“As technologies continue to advance and the market appetite for renewable power continues to grow, Tenaska Development’s focus remains on high-value opportunities, the company notes.
Investors To Lawmakers: Lalalalala
That thing about the market appetite for renewable power has a funny ring to it, considering the goings-on among US lawmakers. In particular, Republican state and federal legislators — who used to bill themselves as guardians of the free market — are pulling out all the stops to shield fossil energy stakeholders from the free market opinions of finance industry professionals.
The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee, for example, has made room on its rather busy plate to investigate the green investor movement. On November 1 the leading non-profit shareholder advocacy organization As You Sow reported that it received a letter from the Committee that alleged violations of antitrust law “by entering into agreements to ‘decarbonize’ corporate assets and reduce emissions to net zero — with potentially harmful effects on Americans’ freedom and economic well-being.”
As You Sow also noted that the firms Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), Glass Lewis, Engine No.1, Trillium Asset Management, Arjuna Capital, and Aviva Investor Americas received similar letters.
Those outfits are small potatoes compared to the leading global asset manager BlackRock, which has been a particular focus of partisan criticism over the past couple of years. Apparently BlackRock has not been listening. In August, BlackRock announced a new $1.2 billion climate fund to help New Zealand accomplish its 100% renewable energy goal for electricity, making it the “the largest single-country low-carbon transition investment initiative BlackRock has created to date.”
Will Tiny New Zealand Beat USA To The Green Hydrogen Punch?
When New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announced the new fund, he made it clear that his country is ready to take on the global clean power market.
“This is a first of its kind fund in the country that demonstrates the huge economic potential of New Zealand being a climate leader and our goal of generating 100% renewable electricity,” Hipkins said.
On December 15, the New Zealand government also published a hydrogen roadmap describing how green hydrogen would complement the country’s electrification goal.
“There are opportunities for green hydrogen to reduce emissions in areas that are hard to electrify, support regional economic transitions, and underpin our energy security and resilience,” said the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.
If New Zealand has its eyes on global leadership, they’ll have to act fast. The Earth is being peppered with massive new green hydrogen projects aimed at international markets as well as local demand, one of which is CIP’s the newly announced Helax Istmo project in Oxaca, Mexico.
“Helax is projected to produce green hydrogen and green maritime fuels, contributing materially to Mexico’s sustainable development goals, as well as to the decarbonization of the shipping industry globally,” CIP stated on Friday, with the emphasis on global.
Speaking of acting fast, Republican members of the Judiciary Committee who are concerned about “Americans’ freedom and economic well-being” may want to consider aiming their slings and arrows at Texas, which has emerged as a renewable energy powerhouse and epicenter of green hydrogen and e-fuels production despite its historic stake in fossil energy.
Photo: Offshore wind turbines courtesy of Copenhagen Infrastructure Funds.
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