The proposed hydrogen energy plant in the South County received a major shot in the arm Wednesday, after it was awarded millions of dollars in stimulus funding.The Department of Energy awarded Hydrogen Energy International $308 million for the plant through the Clean Coal Power Initiative."This award is a significant commitment by the US Administration to low-carbon power generation with carbon capture and storage technology," said Lewis Gillies, Chief Executive of Hydrogen Energy International, in a statement. "Both the DOE and Hydrogen Energy recognize that this project may become the model for new power generating facilities throughout the world.The joint venture between BP and RioTinto is also supported by a project study approved by the state public utilities commission. When operational, the plant would use petroleum coke and through a process of gasification, would convert it into hydrogen, to be used for electricity, and carbon dioxide, which would be stored underground to stimulate neighboring oil reserves."Todays announcement demonstrates the importance and viability of the project in meeting the dual challenges of global climate change mitigation and increased state and national demand for energy security," said Jonathan Briggs, regional director of the Americas at Hydrogen Energy International, in a statement.