Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Brookfield Renewable Partners LP’s Holtwood power plant in Pennsylvania.


A fast-growing U.S. maker of hydrogen fuel cells has signed a deal to produce green hydrogen by using hydroelectricity from Brookfield Renewable Partners LP’s Holtwood power plant in Pennsylvania, as the industry touts the dawn of an energy revolution.

Plug Power Inc. , based in upper New York State, has ambitious plans over the next eight years to build and install electrolyzers, which generate green hydrogen by using renewable electricity. Through a process known as water electrolysis, hydrogen is captured as fuel after being split from oxygen.

Many environmentalists view green hydrogen as a holy grail for the world’s energy transition over the long term for use in transportation and industrial heating, especially as a wide array of countries strive to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Story continues below advertisement

Plug’s expertise is in making hydrogen fuel cells, but the Latham, N.Y.-based company plans to diversify by building an extensive U.S. network of green hydrogen production sites. In a bid to turn its dreams into reality, Plug has formed partnerships with Brookfield and other suppliers of renewable electricity.

For Plug and Brookfield, the agreement at Holtwood signals a leap forward for green hydrogen. Skeptics, however, question whether the clean energy industry’s excitement is more hype than substance.

Green hydrogen is the cleanest version of hydrogen, but it currently has high costs for production.

There are only a handful of green hydrogen projects operating today in North America, but proponents of electrolyzers say the future looks bright for the hoped-for global transformation to low- or zero-carbon energy sources.

“The interest in electrolyzers has just gone up significantly in the last year,” said Amy Adams, vice-president of fuel and hydrogen technologies at Cummins Inc.

Cummins, an Indiana-based manufacturer of truck engines that use diesel or natural gas, diversified into electrolyzers in 2019 with the acquisition of Mississauga-based Hydrogenics Corp.

A green hydrogen project led by Cummins in Bécancour, Que., recently opened and has been producing more than eight tonnes a day, using power from Hydro-Québec. Cummins owns 81 per cent of the venture, while Air Liquide SA has a 19-per-cent stake.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s not just ambitions because we could really see the market developing very quickly,” said Ms. Adams, who is based in Mississauga.

Hydrogen is stored in a large liquid tank and then transported in liquid form using cryogenic trailers. After being moved to the point of use, it is vaporized into a gaseous state.

Locating electrolyzers near sources of renewable electricity is important to increase reliability of the power supply and minimize or even avoid the cost of new transmission lines.

The Plug and Brookfield Renewable venture in Pennsylvania is forecast to produce early 10 tonnes of green hydrogen a day.

“We have a facility called Holtwood hydro that produces a significant amount of renewable power,” Brookfield Renewable chief executive officer Connor Teskey said. “Plug Power is going to build their new electrolyzer – their new hydrogen facility – right near our hydro dam.”

Toronto-based investment giant Brookfield Asset Management Inc. owns 48 per cent of Brookfield Renewable, which has partnership units and related shares that trade on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges.

Story continues below advertisement

Hydrogen is seen as an ideal replacement for diesel or natural gas. “When hydrogen is burned, it releases energy, but it doesn’t release any carbon,” Mr. Teskey said.

He is optimistic that today’s high costs will be significantly reduced within a decade.

“It’s still very, very much in its nascent stage. We do think over time as the industry ramps up, economies of scale will prevail and green hydrogen will become cost effective,” Mr. Teskey said.

Other suppliers of renewable electricity include Apex Clean Energy Inc., which has lined up wind power for Plug in Texas. A site in western New York also has been identified, with the state signed up to provide hydroelectricity to Plug.

Plug chief strategy officer Sanjay Shrestha said there will be a variety of facilities opening over the next several years as the company rolls out its green hydrogen network. The goal is to produce 45 tonnes a day by the end of 2022 and ramp up to 450 tonnes a day by 2025, focusing first on the United States. If all goes well, Plug’s aim is to get to 900 tonnes a day globally by 2028.

“We’re looking at a lot of sites,” Mr. Shrestha said. “One of the ways to get to as close to zero carbon as you can is really by thinking about green hydrogen.”

Story continues below advertisement

Through a process called steam-methane reforming, natural gas is already being used in the energy industry to make grey hydrogen, which emits carbon dioxide during production.

Another version, blue hydrogen, is also produced from natural gas, but the process captures and stores carbon dioxide.

Mr. Shrestha says he believes the green hydrogen economy will emerge in the not-too-distant future, with renewable power costs dropping around the world. “To decarbonize the electric grid, we’re going to need to add a lot of renewables,” he said.

As well, he forecast that hydrogen will be fuelling a vastly higher number of buses and long-haul transport trucks in the years ahead.

Plug acquired electrolyzer maker Giner ELX Inc. last year and it bought United Hydrogen Group Inc., a producer and distributor of hydrogen.

Hydrogen fuel cells in vehicles create electricity without emitting carbon dioxide, providing a cleaner alternative to energy generated by fossil fuels.

Story continues below advertisement

Skeptics are unimpressed by fuel cells and green hydrogen. “It’s all just a pipe dream, because ‘green’ hydrogen is too expensive and too inefficient to produce, store, transport and burn,” argues New York-based Kerrisdale Capital Management LLC, a short seller (an investor that bets against companies and their stock price).

In a report in January, Kerrisdale said Plug and other boosters of the hydrogen economy are deluded. Plans for widespread use of electrolyzers “are far from reality as they’ve ever been,” the report said.

Mark Kirby, CEO of the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, said the fate of green hydrogen hinges on the renewable power industry’s ability to reduce costs.

Bearing in mind the long time horizon for green hydrogen to become common worldwide, Mr. Kirby said it’s important for governments to also recognize the role other types of hydrogen will be able to play in decarbonization.

Quebec, for instance, has abundant hydroelectricity and is positioned to nurture production of green hydrogen. By contrast, Alberta will seek to tap its natural gas reserves and carbon-capture technology to produce blue hydrogen.

“We need as much clean hydrogen as we possibly can get. It will be produced by many pathways. It won’t be just by one,” Mr. Kirby said.

Story continues below advertisement

Brookfield’s Holtwood hydro site in Pennsylvania is in the running to be the first to power electrolyzers in Plug’s green hydrogen network when its facility opens in late 2022, although rivals such as the Plug and Apex wind partnership in Texas are also in the hunt for bragging rights to be first.

Mr. Shrestha is committed to strengthening the company’s fuel cell production while also diversifying into green hydrogen.

“We want to build the network of green hydrogen generation facilities in the U.S.,” he said. “It’s real because as we keep on decarbonizing the electric grid and as prices for renewable power keep going down, the cost of green hydrogen would continue to go down.”

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies