ARCHES Statement on Community, Energy and Environmental Equity and Justice
The US is on the brink of a clean hydrogen energy revolution. Past energy revolutions have benefited society unequally, with benefits going more to the wealthy and powerful, and adverse impacts falling more on the poor and disenfranchised. ARCHES is committed to a just and equitable hydrogen energy transition for all, with positive benefits for everyone, especially California’s most disadvantaged. ARCHES will prioritize projects that directly result in cleaner air for impacted communities, and ensure real community involvement at all levels and genuine economic opportunity for all.
ARCHES is a public-private partnership created to facilitate California’s transition to clean renewable zero emission hydrogen (H2) energy. Its goals are to displace fossil fuels and decarbonize our economy with environmental and energy justice and equity, quality of life for our communities, and good green careers for our workers.
The federal government plans to award up to $1.25 billion each to up to ten regional US “Hydrogen Hubs.” The goal is to develop regional hydrogen production, transportation, storage, and end-use infrastructure to reduce the cost of hydrogen to $2/kg (and ultimately $1/kg), and displace fossil fuels as an energy source.
What is ARCHES?
The Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES) is a public-private partnership created to facilitate California’s transition to clean renewable zero emission hydrogen (H2) energy. It was co-founded by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, the University of California, a statewide labor coalition organized by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, and the Renewables 100 Policy Institute. Serving as a neutral convener on behalf of the DOE and the State, ARCHES is committed to a just and equitable hydrogen energy transition, with integration of local communities in all aspects and phases of its operation, from project selection to governance. ARCHES will maintain transparency in its operations and prioritize clean renewable hydrogen projects that displace fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, create new green careers for California workers, and benefit California’s disadvantaged communities.
ARCHES Commitments to Community, Energy and Environmental Equity and Justice
ARCHES will only fund production, distribution storage and use of clean renewable hydrogen.
ARCHES will not fund blending of hydrogen in natural gas distribution pipelines.
ARCHES will include Organized Labor, Cities and Local Governments, Tribal Nations, Communities and Environmental Justice Organizations in its governance and decision-making.
ARCHES will involve local communities in decision-making about projects in their communities.
ARCHES will ensure that training programs, career development support and high-road career opportunities are available to California’s disadvantaged communities.
ARCHES will require that all projects advance diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.
ARCHES will require that at least 40% of the benefits from its projects flow to California’s disadvantaged communities.
How can hydrogen help disadvantaged communities?
The federal hydrogen hub program explicitly requires that hubs advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility and comply with the federal Justice40 Initiative, which requires 40% of the benefits from hub activities to flow to disadvantaged communities.
Hydrogen technology has improved. Previously, it was mostly made with fossil fuels and for the petrochemical industry. It can now be made from renewable resources and used in ways that clean our air and protect our climate. The falling cost of renewable energy, along with federal and state climate and zero emissions policies, have created an opportunity to use our state’s abundant renewable resources to make hydrogen at scale without fossil fuels. For example, hydrogen can be made by splitting water with electrolysis powered by renewable electricity. When used to produce energy via fuel cells, hydrogen yields zero emissions. Compared to batteries, hydrogen has greater energy density, lower weight, and faster refueling. These qualities make hydrogen a key enabler of zero emissions in applications like long-haul heavy-duty trucks, transit buses, rail and heavy equipment used at ports and warehouses, which are among the leading causes of pollution in neighborhoods where disadvantaged communities often suffer from negative health impacts.
Deploying clean renewable hydrogen at scale will also create many new green careers. ARCHES will ensure that training programs, career development support and high-road career opportunities are available for those in California’s disadvantaged communities.
How will ARCHES help California achieve energy and environmental equity and justice?
California has led the nation on a just energy transition with laws like AB 617 and SB 350 that require energy planning to achieve equitable benefits and reverse harmful impacts on communities. Community engagement is essential, and ARCHES is designed to empower California communities to participate in developing a hydrogen economy that will benefit all Californians.
As ARCHES has begun to form, we have invited local community and environmental justice leaders to participate in a series of hybrid multi-stakeholder workshops around the state. These convenings included our environmental justice symposium with UC scholars, our launch in Long Beach, and several group meetings with the ARCHES team. Hearing from a diverse and widespread intersection of frontline community voices has been invaluable in shaping the ARCHES governance plan, project vetting criteria, and other key elements as we build out ARCHES. Our outreach efforts to date are just a start; we look forward to a much deeper and mutually beneficial engagement in the months and years ahead.