LANCASTER, Calif.— The annual National Hydrogen Day has capped a week of excitement and progress in the international hydrogen community, starting with the Hydrogen Energy Ministerial on Monday.
Though the Ministerial typically provides a global stage for hydrogen advancement, this year, local-level commitments underlined the growing importance of this essential energy resource. In his opening remarks, Japan’s Vice Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, Naoshi Hirose, congratulated two cities at opposite ends of the globe – Lancaster, CA and Namie, Japan – on becoming the first in the world to partner in advancing hydrogen innovation at the local level. Mayor R. Rex Parris of Lancaster and Mayor Kazuhiro Yoshida of Namie were both present at the 2021 Ministerial to confirm their historic commitment and promote their “Smart Sister Cities” initiative to advance clean hydrogen technology at the municipal level.
“Though Lancaster and Namie are the first cities to forge a partnership powered by hydrogen, we hope not to be the last,” said Mayor R. Rex Parris of Lancaster. “We urge municipalities around the globe to join our ‘Smart Sister Cities’ movement towards reducing our emissions and saving our planet.”
Both Lancaster and Namie are trailblazers in municipal clean energy innovation. Mayor Parris launched Lancaster’s clean energy transition over a decade ago, inaugurating the city’s own clean energy utility company and, in 2019, earning Lancaster the title of the first “net zero” city in the world through its investments in solar energy. Now, Lancaster aims to become the first U.S. city to fully embrace hydrogen, hosting a green hydrogen production and anaerobic digestion plant, as well as transitioning City Hall to run solely on hydrogen power. This future-looking vision has drawn billions of dollars in investments, jobs, and taxes to Lancaster from industry leaders including electric bus manufacturer BYD, the world’s first concentrated solar-power-to-hydrogen company Heliogen, anaerobic digestion innovator Hitachi Zosen Inova, and hydrogen gasification company SGH2.
Namie Mayor Kazuhiro Yoshida shares this vision of using hydrogen innovation to drive development and progress. “The cities will focus on using their unique resources to advance hydrogen production, storage, distribution and usage,” he told the forum, adding that they will also “pursu[e] a roadmap that encourages economic development and social progress.” Namie emerged from the devastation of the 2011 Nuclear disaster at Fukushima to rebuild and reimagine itself as the world’s first hydrogen city. In 2020, the town inaugurated the world’s largest solar-to-hydrogen facility at the time, ensuring a supply of hydrogen that is so reliable, it was even used to power the eternal flame of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
With the Olympics coming to Lancaster’s doorstep later this decade, Kathryn Barger, Supervisor of Los Angeles County, challenged the city to build on hydrogen’s newfound place at the games. “Wouldn’t it be great if Lancaster could supply the hydrogen for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles?” she remarked at the cities’ hydrogen MOU signing event in July.
Other officials have taken notice of the global impact of these trailblazing cities, including U.S. Congressional Representative Mike Garcia of California’s 25th District. “I want to recognize the City of Lancaster and the City of Namie in Fukushima, Japan for becoming ‘sister cities’ in their dedication to the promotion of hydrogen as a clean energy source for transportation and electricity,” he stated. “I look forward to seeing what this partnership yields for Lancaster, CA-25, the State of California, and the world.”
Although these local efforts have had an outsized impact, Mayor Parris of Lancaster made it clear that the U.S. and Japanese governments should support their “Smart Sister City” vision through investment in hydrogen infrastructure if they are to create change. “Though we are proud to be leading the way in hydrogen innovation, climate change is not a problem that we alone can solve. Addressing imminent climate extinction will require investment, engagement, and collaboration from decisionmakers at every level,” he said.
This sentiment was echoed by Lex Heslin, Senior Project Developer at Hitachi Zosen Inova, which advises Lancaster on its Hydrogen Master Plan. “These cities are uniquely positioned to affect change at a granular level. Other local and national government agencies — along with academia, the research community, and the private sector — should do all we can to invest in them and expand this critical platform for innovation and change.”
SOURCE City of Lancaster, California