Interest in hydrogen as a means of decarbonisation while maintaining energy security has recently re-emerged for global economies. Japan’s desire to move away from nuclear power generation without sacrificing energy security has spurred its commitment to become the world’s first ‘Hydrogen Society’. South Korea has followed suit with its own ambition to transition to a hydrogen economy. At a smaller scale, the city of Leeds in the UK has a similar aspiration with its H21 Project.
The growing global support led to the formation of the World Hydrogen Council, now supported by some 33 multinational corporations across the hydrogen, oil and gas, transport, power and technology research sectors alongside a further 20 corporations within the value supply chain. The appetite to develop global supply chain networks provides an opportunity for hydrogen development to underpin a long term and valuable export market supply, particularly in Australia, which to date has not existed.
These are two significant recent developments on the demand side and help provide confidence for Australia in answering the question: will demand for hydrogen emerge and to what extent (and when)? On the ‘supply side’, recent advances in technology and the performance of these in the context of various elements in the hydrogen supply chain – from electrolysis, fuels cells, longer term storage and transport – have provided clearer pathways to the necessary reduction in equipment lifecycle (capital and operating) costs. In Australia in particular, the rapid decline in the costs of utility scale solar projects, the emergence of grid scale battery technology to provide a range of benefits to not just renewable energy projects but the network operations, provide an analogue to what could be possible with hydrogen, in support of the question: will the technology challenges be overcome and can the cost structure decrease such that hydrogen will be a viable alternative fuel?
Closer to home, the progress made in demonstration projects both in the transport sector (including the ACT government hydrogen bus trials), power market (including SA’s Renewable Technology Fund support for network connected hydrogen projects) and gas networks (including ARENA’s support for NSW and WA trials) is highly encouraging. As these projects come online and achieve commercial operation, their ability to demonstrate a range of operational and specifically customer focussed benefits will be significant for the industry.