County to partner with two ‘mentor’ cities to explore hydrogen energy opportunities

  • ROTH

Hawaii County is partnering with cities in California and Japan to develop hydrogen energy technology as the state transitions toward carbon neutrality.

Through a program by the U.S. Department of Energy, the county will work with the cities of Lancaster in California and Namie in Fukushima, Japan, in the hope that the two cities — both of which are world leaders in adopting hydrogen technology — will share their strategies.


“They’re the first cities to be deemed hydrogen cities,” said Mayor Mitch Roth. “We’re not just putting all our eggs in the hydrogen basket, but we’ve been looking into building our energy portfolio, and we’ve been working on to run our public transit fleet on both electricity and hydrogen cells.”

The Energy Department program — called the H2 Twin Cities program — establishes Lancaster and Namie as “mentors” to the county as the Big Island accelerates its adoption of clean energy.

Earlier this year, the government of Lancaster announced that it would host the construction of what will be the world’s largest hydrogen production facility, capable of generating nearly 4 million kilograms of hydrogen per year — about 6 kilograms of hydrogen can power a car for about 380 miles.

Namie was heavily damaged during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which led to the entire city being evacuated and certain parts of it only reopening for permanent residency in 2017.

Following the disasters, the city took the opportunity to modernize its energy infrastructure. Until Lancaster’s facility is complete, Namie’s Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field is the world’s current largest hydrogen production facility.

Roth said the Energy Department program includes a $100,000 award for the county, which he said will mostly be used to establish a planning foundation upon which future hydrogen infrastructure projects can be built. He said the program “positions us to receive a lot of funding in the future.”

Roth said future projects could involve renovating the county’s waste management facilities to make them into energy producers. The contents of the county landfills also could be partially converted into hydrogen, which Roth said could be enough to fuel the county’s vehicle fleet while also reducing waste in the landfills.

“We’ll be pioneers in the field,” Roth said. “This is a journey that everyone is going to have to take. We’re seeing how Europe is having to change its dependence on oil because of how much of their oil they were importing from Russia.”

As for the specific terms of the award, Roth was unsure. While the award was announced last week at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt, Roth said the Energy Department has not made the official announcement to the county.

Email Michael Brestovansky at

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