The new law that went into effect last week requiring all new cars purchased in New York to be fully electric by 2035 makes it clear: the transition away from fossil fuels is happening, and it’s happening fast. This is good news for the environment, and it should be great news for hardworking New Yorkers as well – as long as our leaders support all the available paths to decarbonization.
If done right, the transition to a fossil-free energy system can be a massive job creator. From jobs building wind and solar farms to maintaining transmission infrastructure to working in restaurants and manufacturing plants powered by fossil-free fuels, the clean energy transition has the potential to create thousands – even millions – of good, family-supporting jobs in New York.
The key to realizing these economic benefits is taking a hybrid approach to phasing out fossil fuels that incorporates green hydrogen along with traditional renewable energy sources like wind and solar electricity. By utilizing all the fossil-free options available, we can not only create more jobs building and maintaining generation and transmission infrastructure, but we can also support long-term business growth across many sectors, including those that are difficult to electrify.
Green hydrogen is a fossil-free alternative to natural gas that is created by using renewable electricity to break down water (H2O) into hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O). The hydrogen generated from this process can be pumped through our existing gas network to homes and businesses or stored and used later to generate electricity when the weather is not windy or sunny enough to meet demand.
Because renewable energy is hard to store, there are many times throughout the year when there simply isn’t enough wind and sunshine to meet New York’s energy needs. Since green hydrogen can be stored much more easily, we can use it to save renewable energy during times when the weather allows us to create more than we need and deploy it later.
Using green hydrogen in this way reduces greenhouse gas emissions. According to the results of a recent New York Power Authority (NYPA) demonstration project, blending green hydrogen with natural gas decreased carbon emissions in electricity generation.
Just as important, expanding the use of green hydrogen paves the way to long-term job creation through three distinct, but related channels. First, using green hydrogen requires building new wind and solar farms as well as specific green hydrogen generation facilities. This creates jobs for construction workers, engineers, and many other New Yorkers at all steps of the supply chain supporting these projects.
Second, because green hydrogen can be distributed through our existing gas system, the experts who have been maintaining and improving our gas distribution pipes for years will be able to continue using their skills. At the same time, new jobs will become available upgrading and expanding the gas and electric distribution systems. These good-paying, union jobs are great opportunities for young people looking to build a career in the trades.
Finally, by giving business owners the option to use the equipment that works best for them instead of forcing electrification, expanding the use of green hydrogen supports job creation across all industries.
Here on Long Island, we embrace the job creation benefits of green hydrogen. That’s why we’re proud to be home to projects like Hempstead’s first-in-the-nation hydrogen blending facility and are planning to convert our existing power plants to run on hydrogen instead of fossil fuels.
Green hydrogen has the potential to be a major job creator. As the New York continues to innovate to lead the fight against climate change, I urge Gov. Hochul and other leaders in communities throughout New York to ensure every community can seize these economic benefits.
Matthew Aracich is president of the Nassau and Suffolk County Building and Construction Trades Council.