Hydrogen

Moving America Toward a Clean Energy Future

Constellation's carbon-free, 24/7 nuclear energy, paired with hydrogen produced by emissions-free power, holds the key to solving the climate crisis.

More than a quarter of global emissions come from hard-to-decarbonize industries and processes that can't easily switch to carbon-free electricity as a power source. This includes steelmaking, aviation, agriculture and long-haul transportation, to name a few. In other words, it's not enough that Americans get all of our electricity from non-emitting sources and power our cars with batteries. Climate experts agree that a decarbonized electric grid is key, but we will need something else.

Hydrogen is the something else. Carbon-free hydrogen can be produced from clean electricity through a process called electrolysis, a long-established technology that splits water molecules to produce hydrogen and oxygen. The captured hydrogen can then be used directly as a fuel or converted to energy-dense synthetic fuels, or e-fuels, that burn clean and hold the potential to reduce emissions associated with these industries, which are among the largest sources of carbon pollution today.

 

You might be wondering – if hydrogen is so clean and abundant, why aren’t we already using it? The short answer is that we are.

Hydrogen is already widely used in transportation and as fuel and feedstock for many chemical and industrial uses. The problem is that the vast majority of the hydrogen in use today is produced using carbon-emitting fossil fuels. The reason is cost.

But if we are going to solve the climate crisis by leveraging the hydrogen economy, we have to find a way to produce it economically using clean energy – starting now.

Consuming hydrogen as fuel emits nothing more than water vapor. This means hydrogen has the potential to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from all corners of our economy.

Here are some hard-to-decarbonize industries and processes that can benefit from clean hydrogen alternatives:


  • Steel and cement: They are the literal building blocks of our economy, but both are made using enormous amounts of heat produced by fossil fuels. With further processing, hydrogen can be converted into a fuel that can be burned, much like natural gas. In fact, it is the only clean fuel that can produce the intense heat required to manufacture these essential materials.
  • Transportation: Hydrogen fuel cells are a well-established technology used to power everything from cars and trucks to the Apollo space missions. Vehicles powered by hydrogen have long range and can be refueled in minutes, making them an ideal solution for heavy transportation, such as long-haul trucking and shipping, which are difficult to power with batteries due to their cost and weight. Hydrogen can also be processed to serve as an alternative fuel in aviation, making it possible to curtain emissions from air travel, which today produces about 2 percent of global carbon emissions.
  • Electricity: Energy produced with hydrogen fuel cells can be used as immediately available back-up power for businesses that rely on 24/7 power or for critical service providers, such as hospitals or emergency services. Much like batteries, fuel cells could also serve as back-up energy to balance the electric grid during times of high demand, which will be critical as we increase our reliance on intermittent solar and wind energy. Lastly, hydrogen-based fuel can be blended with natural gas to reduce emissions from existing gas-fired power plants.
  • Ammonia: It is the second-most commonly produced chemical in the world, finding its way into everything from fertilizer to cleaning products. Over half the world’s food supply depends on fertilizer made from ammonia. Currently, ammonia production relies almost completely on fossil fuels, accounting for about 1 percent of the world’s energy production. But through a chemical process, ammonia can be produced using clean hydrogen.

The U.S. needs to drastically ramp up its production of clean hydrogen in the coming years to reach ambitious climate and clean energy goals. The only question now is how we do it. 

Clean hydrogen can be produced with solar, wind and hydro power, but those renewable resources face major obstacles in terms of cost and time. It will take many, many years to site, permit and build out enough renewable energy just to replace electricity from existing fossil sources, much less deliver the additional amount of energy needed to produce the amount of hydrogen we will need for other parts of the economy.

Nuclear, which produces more than half of all carbon-free energy in the U.S., offers a more immediate and efficient solution. There are numerous benefits to this approach:


  • Nuclear plants operate 24/7, producing an abundance of high-quality steam that can be electrolyzed and split into hydrogen and oxygen.
  • All nuclear plants are already located near water, which will serve as the feedstock for hydrogen production.
  • By nature, nuclear plants are located close to rail and shipping transportation and are typically sited near major industrial and population centers that depend on large amounts of baseload electricity. That means nuclear facilities are already close to the primary users of hydrogen, reducing transportation costs and logistical challenges.
  • Hydrogen from nuclear is easily scalable, meaning production can be ramped up quickly as demand for hydrogen accelerates.

As the nation’s largest nuclear operator and the largest provider of carbon-free energy, Constellation is uniquely positioned to unleash the hydrogen economy.


  • Our 21 nuclear units in Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey serve more than 20 million customers and are located in or near some of the nation’s largest urban and industrial centers. That places them close to heavy energy users that could benefit from hydrogen alternatives.
  • Our wholesale and retail energy businesses serve about 2 million customers, including three fourths of the Fortune 100. That gives Constellation built-in access to an existing customer base, the majority of which is already seeking clean energy solutions.
  • No company has a better understanding of energy and commodities markets, which will be critical to managing clean energy supply for customers as the grid transitions.

Through a U.S. Department of Energy grant, we are exploring the potential for clean hydrogen production at Nine Mile Point in upstate New York. Learn more about this project.

 

Constellation is providing the energy to transform our future.