Labor releases national hydrogen plan

Labor, hydrogen plan
Labor leader Bill Shorten, image: Ross Caldwell

The Australian Labor Party has promised that a Shorten Labor Government will deliver a $1 billion National Hydrogen Plan to create new blue-collar jobs, support new businesses and supercharge Australia’s renewable energy industry.

Hydrogen is an emerging industry that has huge potential to deliver significant economic, employment, energy and environmental benefits for Australia.

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.

Labor says developing a hydrogen industry will deliver new opportunities for manufacturing, transport and electricity generation.

As the global demand for hydrogen surges to an expected $215 billion market by 2022, Australia is uniquely placed to benefit from the development of this new, job-generating industry.

Analysis by ACIL Allen projects that hydrogen exports alone could be worth $10 billion in 20 years, and create 16,000 new blue-collar jobs – mainly in regional areas.

Most of the benefits of hydrogen development will be in regional Australia. For example, the deep sea water ports of Gladstone and Newcastle are well placed to support a hydrogen export industry.

Related article: New hydrogen partnership announced

While benefiting the nation as a whole, Labor says regional Queensland will be the big winner.

Labor’s six-point plan for hydrogen will:

1. Allocate $1 billion of funding from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to support clean hydrogen development, from Labor’s commitment to double CEFC’s capital by $10 billion.

2. Invest up to $90 million of unallocated funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to support research, demonstration and pre-commercial deployment of hydrogen technologies.

3. Establish a $10 million ARENA funding round for hydrogen refuelling infrastructure around the nation, from within ARENA’s unallocated funding.

4. Invest $40 million of unallocated funding from the CEFC Clean Energy Innovation Fund to target hydrogen technologies and businesses that have passed the research and development stage.

5. Implement regulatory reforms that will help the industry develop and prosper, including reforms to support the use of existing gas pipelines for hydrogen, reforms to support the shipping of hydrogen, reforms to better support the storage of CO2 from blue and brown hydrogen production, as well as other reforms to support hydrogen use and production.

6. Establish the National Hydrogen Innovation Hub in Gladstone with an initial investment of $3 million. This will kick-start early commercialisation of hydrogen technologies, provide a hub for investment and research agencies, and provide opportunities to leverage LNG infrastructure to support hydrogen exports.

Labor says a Shorten Labor Government will make Gladstone the hydrogen capital of Australia.

Energy Networks Australia has welcomed the commitment by the Labor Party, as has the Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG).

Energy Networks Australia CEO Andrew Dillon said hydrogen not only had enormous potential as a new Australian export industry, it offered the prospect of zero-emission energy and storage to back up renewable power, utilising existing gas networks.

AGIG’s chief executive officer Ben Wilson said the Labor Party initiative was most timely considering the fast-moving development of the global hydrogen industry and emerging benefits.

Related article: Roadmap finds hydrogen on the horizon

Mr Wilson said the Hydrogen Park SA (HypSA) project will from late this year blend renewable hydrogen into the local gas distribution network in Adelaide, starting the decarbonisation journey.

“Hydrogen is a zero carbon fuel that has the potential to create a major new export industry for Australia, delivering jobs and growth as Australian solar and wind resources are stored in the form of hydrogen and exported to energy hungry North East Asia.  Northern and regional Australia, with the best solar and wind resources, are particularly well placed to benefit,” he said.

“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.

“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.”

Mr 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 per cent hydrogen, delivering zero carbon energy for cooking, hot water and heating,” he said.

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