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Zero-Carbon Fuel Source Could Be Squandered

October 14, 2021

Two of Australia’s biggest states have announced major steps on the road to developing green hydrogen, but the AWU says the massive employment potential of the zero-carbon fuel source will be squandered if governments don’t learn from the lessons of natural gas.

This week NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet unveiled a $3 billion hydrogen strategy that aims to help the state hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Backed by mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, the strategy will provide incentives for green hydrogen production, with Mr Perrottet saying the plan will create tens of thousands of jobs and secure NSW as an “energy superpower”.

This followed an early announcement that Mr Forrest’s Fortescue Future Industries will build the world’s largest green energy hydrogen manufacturing facility in Central Queensland.

The first step in the project — a $115 million manufacturing plant in Aldoga, west of Gladstone — is expected to double the world’s green hydrogen production capacity.

 

Importantly, the facility is slated to manufacture electrolysers and other renewable energy infrastructure onsite, which can be used in domestic energy generation and also exported globally.

AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton says governments and corporations investing in renewable energy production in Australia is a positive development, but investment must also be made in the local manufacturing of the components and infrastructure.

“If we’re investing in hydrogen production and that investment requires infrastructure, we should build that infrastructure here,” Mr Walton says.

“Fortescue Future Industries and the Queensland Government have set a great example for the rest of Australia by doing just that with the announcement of the Gladstone facility.

“We should definitely be investing in cleaner energy production, but we should also be investing in Australian manufacturing capacity at the same time.”

Mr Walton says the immediate jobs potential of hydrogen is obvious, but securing the many multipliers would require a proactive and strategic approach from government.

“Hydrogen is an incredibly exciting opportunity, because it offers fantastic opportunities to workers in the fossil-fuel sector,” he says.

“As long as governments are proactive in making training opportunities available to workers there are obvious synergies and great opportunities to shift from one industry to the other.”

But he warns that Australia’s natural gas industry is a salient warning to the government and voters.

“Australia is one of the most gas-rich nations in the world, but instead of using that wealth to provide affordable energy to our manufacturers, we’ve given multinationals a no-strings-attached licence to pump it offshore to power jobs overseas,” he says.

“There is potential for the mistake to be repeated with hydrogen if we don’t get our policy settings right.

Mr Walton says Australia also needs a hydrogen reservation policy so that a portion of the hydrogen produced here is set aside to sell at reasonable prices to Australian factories, thus powering Australian jobs.

“We can become a renewable energy superpower, but we should be using that strength to help create and sustain Australian jobs and Australian communities first and foremost.

“We know Australia can become a world leader in hydrogen exports, as it has the natural resources for the production of both blue and green hydrogen.

“But if that’s where our hydrogen ambitions begin and end we’re leaving hundreds of thousands of quality jobs on the table.”

Mr Walton also says that if Australia is to develop a competitive hydrogen industry in the next decade it will need to take a pragmatic approach.

“Hydrogen is the fuel of the future, but we have to be realistic in the present. The technology to produce pure green hydrogen at a commercially competitive price simply does not exist yet.

“To assist the industry in getting a foothold as soon as possible, hydrogen production in Australia must be from a mix of blue and green hydrogen. The green component can and should become a larger part of the mix as advances in technology permit.

“If we allow purists to insist that governments and industry focus solely on green hydrogen, the sector will remain in stasis for many years. Market demand does not exist for green hydrogen at the prices that it can currently be produced at.

“It is not realistic to insist on green hydrogen alone straight off the bat. No one will buy it and the industry will fail before it begins.

“Australia has access to the natural resources necessary to create both blue and green hydrogen, and we should use all options at our disposal to ensure this industry can thrive in this country.”

 

 

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