Techno-Economic Analysis of Hydrogen Production


National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Capability Expert

Genevieve Saur, Michael Penev, Zhiwen Ma, Josh Eichman



Node Readiness Category

1: High-Temperature Electrolysis (HTE)
1: Low-Temperature Electrolysis (LTE)
1: Photoelectrochemical (PEC)
1: Solar Thermochemical (STCH)


This capability supports the application of DOE's H2A (Hydrogen Analysis) and H2FAST (Hydrogen Financial Analysis Scenario Tool) analysis tools funded by DOE's Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO), NREL's System Advisor Model (SAM) funded by DOE's Solar Program, and NREL's grid integration models extensively applied to renewable-based generation.

H2A is a suite of hydrogen analysis tools that includes the H2A production model, which is actively developed at NREL. The Hydrogen Analysis (H2A) production models provide transparent reporting of detailed process design assumptions and a consistent cost analysis methodology for the production of hydrogen at central and distributed (forecourt/filling-station) facilities. The H2A production model is the official DOE tool for performing techno-economic analysis of hydrogen production pathways and is used for publishing official DOE case studies in which NREL is a key collaborator.

H2FAST has been developed as an extension of the H2A suite of models and provides extensive analysis of finance assumptions for real-world projects through a user-friendly web-based interface. H2FAST can quickly generate a broad range of results for multiple hydrogen systems. It has been published as both a simple website and as a more detailed Excel model with expanded analysis capability. Both are available through the main H2FAST website.

SAM develops cost-of-energy estimates for grid-connected power projects based on local weather conditions, installation and operating costs, and system design parameters for a range of renewable energy technologies, including solar photovoltaics (PV), concentrating solar power (CSP), wind, and geothermal.

Both H2FAST and SAM are key examples of enhanced user interfaces that can be leveraged to improve stakeholder engagement and model usefulness. In addition to H2FAST and SAM, NREL has a variety of grid modeling tools that have been used to explore both operational benefits and economic competitiveness for integration of hydrogen systems into the grid. Examples include capacity planning tools (long-term energy system planning), production cost simulations (large-scale operational impacts on the energy system (e.g., PLEXOS, GridView)) and fixed price optimization models (near-term business case analysis). Leveraging our combined experience with H2A, H2FAST, SAM, and grid modeling tools, NREL can provide stakeholder support for a broad range of TEA capabilities related to hydrogen production systems and the integration of renewable sources of energy. System configurations, process simulations, material requirements, and energy balances can be assessed with respect to current and future costs at the subsystem, total systems, and integrated (i.e., grid-connected) system levels. The TEA will consider the sustainability for hydrogen production including land and water usage, and the potential environmental impacts of placing a hydrogen plant. The TEA modeling results can provide high-level material performance guidance and identify additional R&D needed to meet the HydroGEN cost goals.

Capability Bounds‎

NREL's capability in TEA provides relevant cost and performance data for state-of-the-art hydrogen production systems. The TEA capability will work closely with the material development and realize their techno-economic potentials for the HydroGEN program.

Unique Aspects‎

NREL is uniquely suited to the TEA analysis by combining H2A with other models focused on electricity grid and renewable energy systems. NREL developed H2A through funding from the FCTO, publishing the first case studies in 2004, and continues to work with a wide range of stakeholders to develop new case studies for emerging technologies. NREL's strength in technology validation and life cycle analysis on fuel cell products can be leveraged to study life cycle of the hydrogen production components and system. NREL also leads an activity on regional sustainability that has helped frame the sustainability goals for hydrogen that go beyond just energy usage and conversion efficiency.


The H2A production models are freely available to download and NREL can provide extensive experience in doing H2A analysis as well as leveraging the analysis for support of other modeling needs. Some additional software development would be required to integrate H2A with broader system models such as PLEXOS, or to develop specific user interfaces for the HydroGEN program, such as those developed for finance and electricity production audiences through H2FAST and SAM.


Multiple technologies will be explored within the HydroGEN program including advanced electrolysis, photoelectrochemical processes, and solar thermochemical hydrogen production. Techno-economic analysis is necessary to prioritizing technology development pathways and identifying those high-impact activities required to reach the program goals. At its best, TEA screens and characterizes technologies for commercial potential and optimizes system integration. Renewable resource and renewable electricity assessment facilitates the smooth transition of promising technologies into a relevant market. The top-down TEA results can guide materials R&D to obtain the kinetics, durability, and other properties needed to achieve the hydrogen cost targets.


Screenshots of H2FAST and SAM web interfaces

H2FAST (left) and SAM (right) interfaces showing financing input parameters for hydrogen stations and high-temperature molten-salt tower systems

Sample map and chart showing production cost model results

Production cost model results for Western Wind and Solar Integration Study, Phase 2


1. DOE H2A Analysis, H2A Production Case Studies, NREL System Advisor Model User Guide,

2. M. Melaina and J. Eichman, Hydrogen Energy Storage: Grid and Transportation Services, NREL/TP-5400-62518, Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (2015).

3. J. Eichman, K. Harrison, and M. Peters, Novel Electrolyzer Applications: Providing More Than Just Hydrogen, NREL/TP-5400-61758, Golden, CO: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (2014).