Labor plans to "supercharge" hydrogen industry

By Nichola Murphy
Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

Labor plans to "supercharge" hydrogen industry

The Labor Party’s $1.14 billion National Hydrogen Plan, which aims to position Australia as a leader in the hydrogen industry, has largely been met with support.

With the global market for hydrogen predicted to be worth $215 billion by 2022, according to the International Energy Agency, it represents a huge opportunity to deliver economic, employment, energy and environmental benefits to Australia. This includes contributing up to $10 billion of exports per annum and 16,000 new jobs by 2040, ACIL Allen Consulting analysis projects.

Announcing the plan in Gladstone, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said, “It's about time Australia entered the hydrogen race.” Labor’s six-point plan to “supercharge” Australia’s renewable energy industry includes research and development, commercialisation, deployment, infrastructure and regulatory reforms.

As part of the proposal, Labor would allocate $1 billion of Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) funding to support clean hydrogen from its commitment to double CEFC’s capital by $10 billion.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) would also be asked to allocate $10 million of its funding to establish hydrogen refuelling infrastructure across Australia, as well as invest $90 million of unallocated funding to support research, demonstration and pre-commercial deployment of hydrogen technologies.

The plan noted Gladstone’s potential as an export hub for hydrogen and stated, “A Shorten Labor Government will make Gladstone the hydrogen capital of Australia.” A $3 million National Hydrogen Innovation Hub would be established in Gladstone to kick-start early commercialisation of hydrogen technologies, provide a hub for investment and research agencies, and develop opportunities to leverage LNG infrastructure to support hydrogen exports.

“Hydrogen gas is an energy source that can be produced through the process of electrolysis using renewable energy, meaning it can leverage Australia’s world-class renewable energy to make much cleaner hydrogen competitively,” said a joint statement from Shorten and other Labor ministers. “Developing a hydrogen industry will deliver new opportunities for manufacturing, transport and electricity generation.”

Australia’s abundance of solar and wind resources, existing gas pipeline infrastructure and proximity to Asian markets means it is well placed to export hydrogen.

Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG) — currently building Australia’s largest electrolyser, Hydrogen Park SA, in partnership with the South Australian Government — welcomed the announcement of the national strategy.

“Hydrogen also has the potential to revolutionise the nation’s transport and heat sectors. Hydrogen fuel cell cars, trucks and trains can combine zero emissions electric motors with the fast refuelling and long ranges associated with diesel vehicles today,” said AGIG Chief Executive Officer Ben Wilson. “An important consideration for the haulage sector is that hydrogen is actually lighter than diesel per unit of stored energy, whereas batteries are significantly heavier.”

Wilson said hydrogen can be blended into Australia’s natural gas networks and pipelines, to start the journey towards a decarbonised heat sector. “In the medium term, the gas distribution networks can be converted to 100% hydrogen, delivering zero carbon energy for cooking, hot water and heating,” he said.

The plan was similarly welcomed by Energy Networks Australia, with CEO Andrew Dillon stating, “One of the most exciting properties of hydrogen is its potential to serve as a large-scale battery, utilising existing gas networks.”

He noted the importance of national policies that support the development of a hydrogen sector to help Australia take advantage of a potentially abundant, clean energy resource. “Funding support for research and development, led nationally, that supports the ultimate commercialisation of hydrogen technologies will provide important impetus,” Dillon said.

As we head towards this year’s federal election, Labor insisted it will grasp the opportunities presented by hydrogen, with Shorten stating: “I want Australia and Queensland to be at the front of the hydrogen revolution not behind it.”

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