Energy Commission Expedites Construction of Hydrogen Refueling Stations

Building the nation’s first network of retail hydrogen refueling stations is exciting, groundbreaking and sometimes challenging.

It is exciting because California is transitioning to zero-emission cars to meet its greenhouse gas goals and federal clean air standards. It is groundbreaking because it requires new technology. It is challenging because it takes time to get the technology right and to educate the public about hydrogen fuel’s 20-year safety record.

The California Energy Commission is funding the stations, not building them. To speed up the process, it is offering incentives to the station developers on a sliding scale that provides them more operation and maintenance assistance the faster they get the stations open. The state also has hired a manager to work with station developers and local community planning departments to accelerate the permitting process and has created a step-by-step guidebook for the process.

These actions are working. According to a recent report to the California Legislature, permitting times are two months faster, and the time it takes to open a station is now 18 months compared with nearly five years for earlier funded stations. Next up is a device being created to test the accuracy of hydrogen dispensers and train more testers so dispensers can be certified more quickly for retail sale – a requirement for opening.

Another challenge is finding gas station owners who are able to finalize a lease for a hydrogen dispenser to be built. About 30 percent of projects have been relocated to new sites because of a variety of issues stemming from the suitability of the property.

It is also important to balance the number of stations with the number of fuel cars on the roads so station owners can afford to keep the hydrogen dispensers operating.

Building advanced fueling stations isn’t easy or quick, but the Energy Commission is working with developers to ensure as many of the 49 state-funded stations are open as possible by the end of 2016. The state is moving towards its goal of 100 initial stations to keep hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles rolling.

The Energy Commission supports this program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Zero-emission cars, such as hydrogen fuel cell electric cars, can help California reach its climate goals and reduce air pollution.

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California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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