“Renewable energy is central to our economy and our recovery from the pandemic,” said Lily D’Ambrosio, Victoria’s Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change yesterday as she announced $108 million in funding to unlock the next wave of renewable energy technology.
Designed to “get power from ground-breaking concepts out of the lab and into the grid”, as the announcement put it, the funding will specifically support research and start-ups in the renewable energy field.
It is part of the larger $1.6 billion investment in renewables earmarked by the Government in its Victorian Budget 2020/21 which will, among other projects, fund novel research on producing hydrogen from renewables; and assessment of the transmission infrastructure necessary to support a major offshore wind industry that could include the proposed 2.2 GW Star of the South project.
The bigger picture
These announcements build on earlier commitments drawn from the $1.6 billion budget pool, including the allocation of $540 million to fund development of six renewable energy zones (REZs) in the state.
Identified in the Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO) 2020 Integrated System Plan, the REZs — Ovens Murray, Murray River, Western Victoria, South West Victoria, Gippsland and Central North Victoria — are currently being reviewed by AEMO, with some likely to be expanded. All will be enabled by AEMO’s recommendations for transmission augmentation, laid out in its Victorian Annual Planning Report (VAPR) released earlier this month.
The state currently has around 7.8 GW of existing or committed large-scale renewable generation, of which 2.9 GW comes from solar developments; but AEMO’s 2020 ISP estimates it will need at least “5.4 GW of additional large-scale projects and investment in distributed energy resources (DER)” to meet its legislated Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET) of 50% renewable generation by 2030.
To ensure reliability of Victorian energy supply as the state continues its rapid transition to renewably sourced electricity, AEMO has recommended some $3.5 billion in required transmission investment over the coming decade.
The hydrogen development and supply chain
On the hydrogen-development side, the Andrews Labor Government in Victoria began its funding of hydrogen research in 2018, with a $2 million commitment to research and trials that were to dovetail with the state’s increasing renewable energy resources and utilise its natural-gas-pipeline infrastructure.
Just this month, Victoria’s Deakin University announced a $2.3 million, industry-led research project in conjunction with the Future Fuels Collaborative Research Centre, to test the hydrogen-transporting capabilities of Australia’s gas infrastructure in industrial-scale sand pits.
In May this year, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency contributed $3.1 million of funding to the $7.4 million transformation of Toyota’s decommissioned car-manufacturing plant in Victoria’s Altona, into a renewable energy hub that will produce green hydrogen for transport.
The state government funding announced today aims to accelerate the development of hydrogen from renewable resources.
“Industries like offshore wind and hydrogen from renewables have huge potential,” said D’Ambrosio, “not only to boost power supply and reliability, but to create jobs and tackle climate change.”
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