The future of Australia’s hydrogen industry

The future of Australia’s hydrogen industry
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The future of hydrogen in Australia’s energy industry has recently become a popular and widely discussed topic, with Governments and industry bodies asking the question of role it will play in Australia’s energy mix. Boris Petrovic, Conference Director and content lead for the Australian Hydrogen Forum 2019, discusses the future of Australia’s hydrogen industry. 

The energy sector in Australia is the least trusted by consumers at present, ranking higher than the banking sector which has held the top spot since the 2008 global financial crash. A mixture of high prices and confusing offers, where loyal customers in some cases are penalised with higher electricity bills, has resulted in mistrust of energy retailers and, by association, the wider energy market.

The hydrogen industry will exist within this market ecosystem and culture, and therefore should make an especially conscious effort to secure a social licence to operate early. Social licence was a significant point of emphasis by Alison Reeve, who is the taskforce leader for the Chief Scientist’s National Hydrogen Strategy.

Hydrogen is a fuel that has the theoretical virtue of being able to extend humans’ continued existence on earth in the long-term by halting carbon emissions. Its sustainability will carry significant PR weight relative to other energy sources. 

However, industry participants should still think long and hard about its likely impact on water resources, energy prices, community relations, as well as general PR and public understanding of the technology and its safety.

The main mechanism for confronting the social licence issue early would be the emergence of one or more strong hydrogen associations, Hydrogen Mobility Australia being the obvious candidate, which can collectively coordinate both accurate communication of hydrogen industry benefits and negotiate, on a collective level, as to how it will compete with other large industry interests. Mitigating negative community impacts and creating economic opportunity for Australians proximate to the projects on-the-ground should also be key considerations. 

Currently there isn’t a clear central association that does this (as the industry hasn’t taken off just yet), but an organisation around which the industry can coalesce to address these issues will be required. 

Also, the fact that Australia could have a clean, sustainable and ethical hydrogen supply chain can augment the brand of Australian Hydrogen to charge a premium, on top of the quality of the gas being produced, when competing for supply contracts in the international market.

All countries with a high-degree of renewables penetration in the energy mix could produce green hydrogen. While those with lots of fossil fuel resources on their territory could produce blue or brown hydrogen, providing that carbon capture and storage tech is actually effective (which is a big ‘if’) and they want to produce a sustainable product. Australia could be the country that bequeaths to the world a stable climate through its technical leadership on H2.

And despite his current scepticism, Elon-Musk-like ambition and big-picture thinking will be needed to bring about a hydrogen sector so that it may become the hope all reasonably-minded people are looking for. 

Hydrogen would not need to rely on capacious carbon emissions reduction policies, such as the Paris accord, to halt climate change. Hydrogen can provide an economically-organic carbon abatement mechanism that is driven by the invisible hand of self-interest among fuel consumers and producers. This phenomenon is less affected by the vicissitudes of politics and therefore all the more powerful. 

It is with this in mind that a lot will be expected of the Chief Scientist’s, Dr Finkel’s, National Hydrogen Roadmap, due provisionally in December 2019, as to how the aforementioned challenges will be addressed and overcome.

Read Boris’ full article here. 

This Partner Solutions content is brought to you by Australian Hydrogen Forum. For more information, visit https://www.hydrogenforum.com.au/

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