19 plans to advance hydrogen show momentum is building across the globe

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The strong case for hydrogen has long been known, with Australia among the countries most favourably placed to turn hydrogen hype into real-world deployment. A new report from the Future Fuels CRC (FFCRC) on the work of 19 separate hydrogen roadmaps from around the world shows the momentum is building behind the technology in Australia and globally.

Declaring 2019 a critical year for hydrogen, the International Energy Agency said hydrogen was enjoying unprecedented momentum around the world and could finally be set on a path to fulfill its longstanding potential as a clean energy solution. Adding to the momentum, the Council of Australian Governments recently released consultation papers on a national hydrogen strategy and is now seeking submissions from the industry and community. On a state level, the Queensland government has launched a $19 million sustainable hydrogen strategy, while Western Australia has launched a renewable hydrogen strategy, announced the creation of a $10 million green hydrogen fund and started injecting green hydrogen into gas pipelines.

With hydrogen in the spotlight, both in Australia and globally, the new FFCRC report finds little connection between 19 international hydrogen strategies and roadmaps it analyzed. “Surprisingly, each of the strategies and roadmaps examined seem to have been developed in isolation from one another,” the report states. “There is little sense of collaboration or of the effects of one strategy on another having been taken into account.”

Collectively, however, the strategies suggest that these efforts could lead to large scale and rapid deployment of hydrogen technologies from around 2030 onwards. In the meantime, the focus is expected to remain on testing and developing technologies, and on ensuring that other enablers for the deployment of hydrogen are in place.

Key takeaways

The report looks into the following strategies/roadmaps: Brunei Darussalam, China, European Union (Hydrogen Roadmap Europe), European Union (A clean planet for all: A European long-term strategic vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy), France, Germany, Hydrogen Council, International Energy Agency, Japan, Netherlands, Northern Netherlands, Norway, REpublis of Korea, UK, Leeds – UK, London -UK, North of England – UK, US (Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program Plan) and California.

Following a number of ‘false dawns’ – in the 1970s, 1990s and early 2000s – which subsequently faded, the report finds there is considerable international interest in rapidly deploying hydrogen technologies over the next several decades as pressure mounts on countries to decarbonize, as well as considerable uncertainty regarding how quickly hydrogen and competing technologies will develop in terms of their effectiveness and cost-efficiency. “Such uncertainty needs to be taken into account in formulating a strategy, either by taking a technological neutral or flexible approach, or not overcommitting down particular pathways,” the report states.

Hydrogen strategies should ideally be built upon areas of comparative advantage in terms of production and use, and reflect the broader international environment, for example by drawing on hydrogen strategies in other countries, the report suggests. In other industry recommendations, logistics of the transition to hydrogen should be a core focus of the strategy, while the scale of activities should reflect the scale of the transition being targeted.

The report underlines that access to low cost, low GHG intensity electricity is likely to be critical to the potential for a hydrogen export trade into the medium term, and for the potential of hydrogen to make a meaningful contribution to domestic GHG reductions. “Availability of suitable geological features for CCS is also likely to be an important cost driver,” it states. Finally, it underlines the importance of international cooperation in terms of standards for technology and ways to measure and certify the GHG intensity of hydrogen supplies for end users.

Edging closer to Australia’s hydrogen strategy 

According to FFCRC Chief Executive Officer, David Norman, the aim of the report, authored by a team at the University of Adelaide, was to help understand how nations, regions and industries are thinking about the opportunities and potential for hydrogen. “This resource aims at helping develop other hydrogen roadmaps and strategies, including Australia’s National Hydrogen Strategy,” he said.

Energy Networks Australia, the Australian Pipelines & Gas Association (APGA) and FFCRC are among those working with Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, who is leading the development of the National Hydrogen Strategy. Energy Networks Australia CEO, Andrew Dillon, said most jurisdictions identified injection of hydrogen into gas networks as a key way to decarbonise their energy system.

“Australia’s gas networks are already testing the blending of hydrogen into existing distribution networks as a way to provide clean, efficient energy to heat homes and cook food,” Mr Dillon said. “As has also been outlined by roadmaps overseas, establishing a domestic hydrogen industry will allow for the development and acceleration of Australia’s hydrogen export industry.”

An earlier report released by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) suggests low emissions hydrogen offers significant exporting potential for Australia, and could contribute $1.7 billion to domestic economy annually. A number of proof-of-concept trials and projects are already underway in Australia, including a hydrogen electrolyzer developed by Neoen alongside a 150 MW wind project and 150 MW solar farm in South Australia and a solar and battery hydrogen innovation hub developed by Canada’s gas major ATCO in Western Australia.

“The pace and manner in which the FFCRC has been established [in 2018] and already delivering results is a great start of this partnership between gas infrastructure industries and academia,” APGA Chief Executive Officer, Steve Davies, said. “Future fuels like hydrogen have so much to offer Australia and the research programs of the FFCRC are essential for us to achieve their full potential.”