Regulatory Update: NAM Pushes for Sensible Clean Hydrogen Regulations

As part of an effort to bring more information about the regulatory and legal environment facing American manufacturers, NFPA is monitoring the newsfeed of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and will be bringing important updates like this to the attention of NFPA members.

Manufacturers are working constantly to develop energy approaches that reduce emissions and promote sustainability—and hydrogen energy is an important part of that mix. But upcoming decisions from the U.S. Treasury Department may make it more difficult for manufacturers to achieve their goals.

That’s why the NAM has been advocating for guidance that implements a hydrogen tax credit in a manner that supports manufacturers’ investments in this technology. 

The background: Through the Inflation Reduction Act, Congress established this tax credit, called 45V, to incentivize companies to develop, produce and use clean hydrogen.

“Hydrogen is the Swiss army knife of decarbonization—you can use it for nearly everything you can use natural gas for,” said NAM Vice President of Domestic Policy Brandon Farris. “And this credit can be the most significant tool across the globe to bring down the cost of clean hydrogen.”

The problem: As the U.S. Treasury Department finalizes rules around the use of the tax credit, their decisions may undercut manufacturers’ ability to take full advantage of it. Three provisions in particular are at the center of the NAM’s advocacy.

Additionality: The Treasury Department is considering a policy called “additionality,” which would mean that only hydrogen power created through the use of new renewable energy would be eligible for the credit.

Meanwhile, clean hydrogen energy created with renewable energy that is already on the grid would not qualify—a real problem as our permitting system can often take half a decade or more to add additional clean power to the grid.

“We have a lot of renewables on the grid already to spur the hydrogen industry. Using existing clean generation should qualify for the credit,” said Farris.

Time matching: Treasury may also impose a provision called “time matching,” which would mean companies would only receive the tax credit if they produce hydrogen energy at the exact same time that they are producing renewable energy.

According to Farris, this rule misunderstands the energy production process. A company might only produce solar power for a few hours during the day when the sun is shining, for example, but it could still continue to produce clean hydrogen energy overnight using the grid. Yet under the time matching rule, they would be unable to claim a tax credit for the full amount.

“This provision would create such tight restrictions that it would chill investment and innovation,” said Farris.

Carbon capture: According to the IRA, clean hydrogen created using natural gas with carbon capture also qualifies for the credit.

However, the IRA also says taxpayers applying for the credits should have a mechanism to demonstrate that their feedstocks are lower in carbon intensity—yet has not specified what that mechanism will be.

“Taxpayers applying for the credits should be able to prove that their feedstocks have less carbon,” said Farris. “The law says the less carbon they produce, the higher the credit they should receive. We’re just asking for a mechanism that allows taxpayers to prove it.”

The bottom line: Investments in clean hydrogen energy could be a game-changer for America’s energy future, but only if manufacturers have the opportunity to make them. That’s why the NAM has been urging the Treasury Department to create a flexible credit that rejects the additionality and time matching provisions and provides a mechanism that supports carbon capture.

“Hydrogen is one of the most promising decarbonization technologies available,” said Farris. “If we can make these changes, we can achieve greater hydrogen production and more significant infrastructure investments and expedite decarbonization efforts across hard-to-abate sectors.”

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