Four Arizona utilities and three public universities are forming a coalition to help the state move toward a carbon-neutral economy.

Arizona Public Service, Salt River Project, Tucson Electric Power and Southwest Gas, along with Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, plan to discuss strategies and solutions.

The coalition established a new ASU-based center called the “Center for an Arizona Carbon-Neutral Economy,” housed within the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory on the ASU Tempe campus. Among its first efforts, the center is expected to pursue creating a regional clean hydrogen hub.

“Today’s partnership will pave the way towards a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, creating the jobs of the future and fueling innovation and sustainable energy sources throughout our state,” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)said.

Hydrogen produces no direct emissions of pollutants or greenhouse gases, and it offers ways to decarbonize a range of sectors. Interest in using hydrogen as an electric power-generating fuel is growing. In the United States, several power plants have announced plans to operate on a natural gas-hydrogen fuel mixture in combustion gas turbines.

The infrastructure law passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in 2021 establishes program guidance and funding to create regional clean hydrogen hubs, which the coalition will seek. The law defined a “regional clean hydrogen hub” as a network of clean hydrogen producers, potential clean hydrogen consumers, and connective infrastructure located in close proximity, with hubs encompassing the use of diverse feedstocks, end-uses and geographic placement. Beyond that, the specific details and implementation would have to be defined by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The infrastructure law also includes funding for clean hydrogen electrolysis research and development, along with efforts to promote clean hydrogen manufacturing and recycling.

When fully operational, a new hub would help support a reliable and resilient electric grid, provide clean energy for the electric, transportation and industrial sectors, and potentially create economic development opportunities in communities that are adversely impacted by the closure of fossil-fueled plants.

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