The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office (HFTO) and the DOE Hydrogen Program are working to increase diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) and environmental justice (EJ) through various outreach efforts, initiatives, and funding opportunities.

Here are five ways HFTO and the Hydrogen Program have begun to incorporate DEIA and EJ efforts into programing, education, and community benefits:

EJ and DEIA Questions and Requirements included in Requests for Information and Funding Opportunity Announcements

An important part of HFTO’s work is to support research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) of hydrogen production, delivery, storage, and fuel cell technologies. HFTO selects RD&D projects through open and competitive procurements and encourages collaborative partnerships among industry; universities; national laboratories; tribal, federal, state, and local governments; and non-governmental organizations.

Requests for information (RFIs) are a tried-and-tested method for gathering public input, generally on highly technical topics. With recent RFIs for Clean Hydrogen Manufacturing, Recycling, and Electrolysis and Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs, HFTO has sought community and stakeholder input on topics ranging from proposed projects’ impacts on disadvantaged communities; strategies to build and diversify the hydrogen workforce; and opportunities to increase meaningful engagement and partnerships with community groups, labor unions, and tribal communities.

In addition, HFTO has been working to broaden and diversify the audiences who respond to RFIs by offering listening sessions, an additional mechanism to solicit feedback. These sessions have given voices to audiences that may be over-burdened and under-resourced and not traditional participants in RFIs. 

Many of the ideas and suggestions received through these processes were incorporated into the recently released Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs funding opportunity announcement, which includes the requirement that all proposal submissions must include a community benefits plan.

H2IQ Hour Green

H2IQ Hour Webinars

Each month, HFTO hosts an H2IQ Hour to engage the public and increase community discussion and education around a variety of topics, including EJ and DEIA. A special extended H2IQ Hour webinar this month focuses on DEIA for Workforce Development in Hydrogen and Fuel Cells as part of National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day celebrations. All past H2IQ Hour webinars—including EJ-focused sessions from February and August—can be found in the webinar archive.

Apply for funding to train the next generation hydrogen workforce

Workforce Development

HFTO and the Hydrogen Program are working to ensure DEIA within the hydrogen and fuel cells workforce. HFTO contributed $2 million to a Fossil Energy and Carbon Management Office funding opportunity as part of an amendment focused on building a talent pipeline of scientists and engineers from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority institutions. HFTO is in the process of reviewing submissions and plans to announce selections during the second quarter of 2023.

HFTO is also working on outreach to ensure DEIA in workforce development by attending events such as the Out and Equal Workplace Summit later this month and the HBCU Week Career and Recruitment Fair through the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities last month. Additionally, HFTO supports projects and programs such as H2Edge, GEM Fellowships, and the Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program.

Justice40 Initiative

The Justice40 Initiative is part of Executive Order 14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. It mandates that at least 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, or overburdened by pollution. HFTO’s August H2IQ Hour, Exploring Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Projects in Disadvantaged Communities, featured an overview of the Justice40 Initiative by Tony Reames, deputy director for energy justice at DOE. HFTO and the Hydrogen Program were among the many featured programs within DOE and EERE, and efforts are underway to implement the goals of the initiative and explore the potential benefits of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies to disadvantaged communities. Additionally, the recently released DOE National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap highlights energy justice and the Justice40 Initiative as important pillars driving the activities by HFTO and the Hydrogen Program.

Deployment Benefiting Disadvantaged Communities

Disadvantaged communities have experienced a disproportionately negative impact from the energy system because of high residential exposure to air pollution and increased energy burdens. To combat this, the Hydrogen Program has identified key strategies, programs, and projects that can help reduce negative impacts on disadvantaged communities and deliver a more equitable hydrogen economy in which the economic, health, and social benefits of participation extend to all people. An example of these efforts is a DOE-funded project from the Center for Transportation and the Environment in collaboration with the United Parcel Service. The project is prioritizing the deployment of 15 hydrogen fuel cell hybrid electric delivery vans in disadvantaged communities in California. The project will include tracking the reductions in emissions achieved in each neighborhood the vans operate in. Further discussion and updates on this project can be found in this LinkedIn blog and the August H2IQ Hour.

This blog is part of a week-long celebration of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day, held annually on October 8 in recognition of hydrogen’s atomic weight of 1.008. Sunita Satyapal, Cassie Osvatics, Michelle Fox, Joe Stanford, Tomas Green, and Vanessa Arjona from the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office as well as Clay Carrington from EERE Communications contributed to the blog. Learn how you can celebrate Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day with DOE.

Sunita Satyapal
Sunita Satyapal is the Director of EERE's Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office.
more by this author