Renewable hydrogen and hydrogen-powered vehicles coming soon to Washington

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December 29, 2020

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

You may remember back in 2019 that I sponsored and passed a bill authorizing PUDs to produce and sell renewable hydrogen. Hydrogen can be created from a process that uses electricity to separate the hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water. I worked closely that year with Douglas County PUD because it has an interest in using its surplus hydropower to produce hydrogen. The law from 2019 allows for renewable hydrogen, which is hydrogen created from an emissions-free electricity source, to now be developed in Washington.

Benefits of renewable hydrogen to our region

This opportunity PUDs now have to produce renewable hydrogen provides our hydroelectric facilities a new way to address an ever-increasing challenge with high power generation they are experiencing in the springtime when flows are high on the Columbia River and when wind and solar generation is significant throughout the Pacific Northwest. Spilling excess water through our dams can adversely affect fish and finding a buyer for electricity when supply is exceeding demand can be challenging, so using surplus electricity to produce hydrogen can be both environmentally and economically beneficial. As owners of the PUDs, anything that benefits the PUD financially will ultimately help its customers. To learn more about hydrogen, click here and here.

RHA graphic

Renewable hydrogen can be a key contributor in our clean energy future.

Hydrogen vehicle pilot project bill introduced

Hydrogen can have many uses, but one of them is as fuel for vehicles. Now that the PUDs have the authority to produce hydrogen, it is helpful to consider how our state may incentivize the use of this clean fuel. Currently, our state provides a 50% sales tax exemption on purchases of traditional plug-in electric vehicles. I have introduced Senate Bill 5000 for the 2021 session. It would establish an eight-year pilot project to extend to fuel cell vehicles the same sales tax benefit the state already provides to traditional plug-in electrics. The bill so far has gained commitments of bipartisan support from nearly 20 co-sponsors.

Showing continued leadership on clean energy

I am very proud of the abundant clean energy produced in our region. For decades, as a result of our renewable, emissions-free hydropower, North Central Washington has shown tremendous leadership and innovation on clean energy. As you know, there has been continued focus throughout the state, nation, and world in recent years about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, our region already leads the way in low emissions since our hydro-based electric sector produces zero carbon emissions and we have little to no industrial emissions. However, our region – like every other region – does produce emissions from transportation activities. As our drivers continue to explore options for plug-in electric vehicles, hydrogen-based fuel cell vehicles may also be a viable option. When it comes to clean energy policies, I believe it is important to offer incentives to promote clean energy rather than push for policies that force a change in behavior through punitive measures. My bill provides this option while encouraging the state to be “technology neutral” when it comes to offering incentives on clean energy. It may be difficult to currently envision, but plug-in electric vehicles may not be the most viable option in the future once large-scale numbers of state drivers make a switch.

Wells Dam

The Wells Hydroelectric Project, near Pateros, is owned and operated by Douglas County PUD. The PUD plans to use surplus electricity from this facility to produce renewable hydrogen, which has many purposes, including use as vehicle fuel.

Background information on renewable hydrogen

Following the signing ceremony of my Senate Bill 5588 in 2019, leaders from the Legislature, Douglas County PUD, Toyota and other clean energy advocates learned about the Toyota Mirai, a hydrogen vehicle parked outside the Capitol Building that day. Other legislators and staff were able to test-drive the car on the state Capitol Campus throughout the day. For more information:

Mirai at WA Capitol

Toyota brought its Mirai to Olympia in 2019 for the signing of my Senate Bill 5588.

Recent media links and articles on SB 5000

What supporters are saying about SB 5000

“We are thankful for Senator Hawkins’ leadership for renewable hydrogen. His support has created an opportunity for us to increase efficiencies at our Wells Hydroelectric Project and increase value for our customers.”

  • Molly Simpson, Douglas County PUD Commission President

 “The Renewable Hydrogen Alliance is proud to support the expansion of clean vehicle incentives to fuel cell electric cars just as Washington begins creating clean hydrogen from the state’s ample supply of renewable electricity.”

  • Ken Dragoon, Executive Director of the Renewable Hydrogen Alliance

“Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be critical to the future of a decarbonized transportation sector. This bill is a meaningful step to ensuring the state incentivizes a portfolio approach to electrifying Washington’s transportation sector. WSHA could not be more pleased to support Senator Hawkins in this effort.”

  • Roxana Bekemohammadi, Executive Director of the Western States Hydrogen Alliance

“Senator Hawkins’ pilot incentive program is an important first step to help accelerate the adoption of hydrogen, fuel cell and electrification accessibility in Washington state. Paving the way for emissions-free technologies will further generate awareness, interest and acceptance in communities seeking cleaner options.”

  • Doug Murtha, Group Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Planning, Toyota Motor North America

“As we work to reduce transportation emissions in Washington state, incentivizing clean energy through an increased use of hydrogen could play a significant role toward accomplishing our climate goals. I look forward to working across the aisle with Senator Hawkins on this policy, and to continue protecting our state’s incredible natural environment.”

  • Senator Liz Lovelett, 40th District, D-Anacortes, Lead Co-sponsor
2021 Mirai

The Toyota Mirai is a zero-emission fuel cell electric car and only discharges water.

2021 Mirai under the hood

Under the hood of the Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle. For more information about hydrogen and fuel cell technology, click here.

I look forward to promoting this bill in the upcoming session and sharing with my legislative colleagues the continued leadership NCW is showing on clean energy solutions.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year!



Brad Hawkins

State Senator Brad Hawkins
12th Legislative District


107 Newhouse Building – P.O. Box 40412 | Olympia, WA 98504-0412
(360) 786-7622 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000

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