Australian hydrogen producers have one month to claim a share of $2 billion from the federal government in a program designed to ensure the country leads the world in the renewable energy source by 2030.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) opened applications for its Hydrogen Headstart program on Tuesday, in what its chief executive called the government’s “largest investment in renewable hydrogen to date”.
Successful applicants to the program, announced in the 2023/24 federal budget, will receive funding to reduce the cost gap between producing renewable hydrogen and its market price.
The funding is in addition to more than $308 million invested in renewable hydrogen projects since 2017, and follows a CSIRO study that recommended Australia ramp up its hydrogen production to remain competitive with countries like Germany, Japan, South Korea and China.
Energy Minister Chris Bowen said Australia had a series of advantages when it came to producing green hydrogen, including vast renewable energy resources from solar and wind farms.
Harnessing those advantages to produce renewable hydrogen on a large scale, he said, could add $50 billion to Australia’s gross domestic product and create 16,000 jobs by 2050.
“Australia already has the largest pipeline of renewable hydrogen projects in the world,” Mr Bowen said.
“Hydrogen Headstart is about realising the potential of that pipeline and making sure Australia is in the race.”
ARENA chief executive Darren Miller said the program, which was developed following a public consultation and three forums, would be critical to supporting Australia’s growing renewable energy industry.
“As other countries step up their ambitions, Australia is meeting the challenge and providing the investment we need to stay competitive in the hydrogen race,” he said.
ARENA has funded 46 renewable hydrogen projects over the past six years, including hydrogen refuelling stations, hydrogen-powered heavy trucks, and its use in producing renewable ammonia, refining alumina and providing power to remote areas.
The federal government is currently reviewing the country’s National Hydrogen Strategy, released in 2019, to ensure the nation can become “a global hydrogen leader by 2030” both in its export and its use to cut emissions.
A recent CSIRO study warned Australia needed to ramp up domestic green hydrogen production to avoid falling behind progress made overseas, and recommended the resource be developed in central locations and transported to refuelling stations for use in transport.
Australia has fewer than 10 hydrogen refuelling stations, with the latest introduced in Queensland by BP in August.
Victoria, NSW and Queensland have pledged to create a “hydrogen super highway” between the states along the Hume, Pacific and Newell highways.
Firms will be able to lodge expressions of interest in the Hydrogen Headstart program until November 10.
(Australian Associated Press)