Hydrogen can serve as an energy carrier in a carbon-neutral system of energy production and use [1,2], but adequate hydrogen storage materials are still lacking in spite of many decades of investigations. In addition to being reversible and meeting stringent weight % and volume criteria, candidate materials must exhibit favorable kinetics for hydrogen uptake and release. The fundamental mechanisms of the (de)hydrogenation process have remained elusive to date. We have initiated a study of the relevant reactions, resulting in an identification of the dominant defect species involved in hydrogen transport in non-metallic hosts. While the concepts discussed here are general, we illustrate them with detailed first-principles results for sodium alanate. We identify hydrogen-related point defects as the essential mediators of hydrogen transport. A novel finding of this work is that the defects are positively or negatively charged, and hence their formation energies are Fermi-level dependent−an important feature that has not been recognized in past studies. This dependence enables us to explain why small amounts of transition-metal additives drastically alter the kinetics of dehydrogenation.