New South Wales launched it’s ‘Hydrogen Strategy’ this week, with newly installed NSW Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean trumpeting NSW’s commitment to what has suddenly become the LNP’s acceptable Green Energy source – ‘Green Hydrogen’.
With up to $3B in incentives on offer, the government expects that there will be up to $80B in green investment by 2050, according to a report in the AFR. NSW are trumpeting this green energy source as the perfect replacement for Coal and to some extent gas, as well as the (surprisingly small) number of jobs these industries create.
It is a strategy actively supported by one of Australia’s richest men – Andrew Forrest, who was front and centre trumpeting Fortescue Metals Group’s green energy arm, and made it very clear that they wanted to play a big part. Along with an investment earlier in the year of $78m to provide funding for a new hybrid gas and hydrogen power plant to be built by Energy Australia in the Shoalhaven, gas power stations are being developed by Snowy Hydro and by Forrest’s Squadron Energy which could also run on Hydrogen.
So far, so good, but what is Green Hydrogen?
According to earth.org,
‘Green Hydrogen is a clean burning fuel that eliminates emissions by using renewable energy to electrolyse water, separating the hydrogen atom within it from its molecular twin oxygen.’
Is it really a ‘green energy’ source?
The answer is yes, but only if renewable energy is used to create the process of electrosysis. Green H2 – produced from renewable energy, is a clean-burning fuel that can be used for long-term energy storage and can help accelerate the decarbonization of transport, heating and industrial processes. According to Recharge ‘A consensus has therefore emerged that the world cannot be fully decarbonized in the long term without green hydrogen’
So that’s all well and good, the issue is that Green H2 will take an enormous amount of renewable energy to make this future possible. Whilst annual growth rates for wind and solar are increasing, they are not doing so at anywhere the speed needed. According to Irena (the International Renewable Energy Agency), countries will need to increase their production of renewables by 6x (!) to achieve Paris targets, without even mentioning what new targets might be set at the upcoming Glasgow climate summit.
To sum it up, Green H2 looks to be an important part of the ongoing efforts to achieve lasting climate impacts and decarbonization, but only if we get serious about investing significantly in renewables, so a golf clap for the NSW government for heading in the right direction, but it would certainly appear that there is a lot more work to do.