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The Hydrogen Revolution

August 25, 2022

The energy revolution is already underway, and The Australian Workers’ Union are campaigning to make sure Australians see the benefit of investment, jobs, and a booming export market. At its National Conference in August the AWU committed to supporting the hydrogen industry in all its forms.

Hydrogen has been produced for decades as a chemical ingredient for industry purposes. But, as the energy transition takes place, interest has turned to the use of hydrogen as an emissions-free fuel for industry.

The resolution at the AWU National Conference called on Australian governments ‘‘to reject a narrow, green-focused hydrogen agenda’’ and instead prioritise the scaling-up of hydrogen this decade – ‘‘irrespective of type’’ – to maximise the opportunity for the hydrogen export economy.

This approach contrasts with Fortescue Metals Group chairman Andrew Forrest, who would prefer to risk the viability of the hydrogen industry by blacklisting fossil fuel-based hydrogen for ideological purposes.

‘‘We can’t let green activists and self-interested billionaires control the national conversation on this,’’ said AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton.

‘‘If we do, we’ll be missing a massive opportunity to position Australia as a global hydrogen powerhouse.

‘‘There’s nothing wrong with green hydrogen, it’s the future. But it’s also many, many years off being economic. We need to move much faster.’’

For Australia to position itself as a world leader in hydrogen production, it must first develop infrastructure, networks, and a domestic customer base. To this end the industry will require an agnostic approach to hydrogen-type to scale the industry and secure interest.

The importance of the AWU’s position is the ease of transitioning to green hydrogen when the time is right. Half of the hydrogen in use in 2030, and around two-fifths in use in 2050, is likely to be ‘blue’ hydrogen. Waiting for green hydrogen to be economically viable will leave our nation flat footed. The opportunity that presents itself now will be missed, and we will be left behind by other nations that approached the hydrogen industry guided by logic rather than ideology.

Australia’s energy security is currently facing its greatest peacetime challenge. The conflict in Ukraine has led to spikes in coal, gas and electricity prices, and Australia’s ageing fleet of coal-fired power plants are no longer capable of providing reliable and affordable baseload power.

Even as the energy transition takes place, and green energy becomes more prevalent, fossil fuels will still be necessary well into the future, to facilitate decarbonisation.



Fuel sources like hydrogen will play a key role in transferring heavy industries like steel to renewables, however Australia cannot wait until green hydrogen is scalable and economically viable to commence investment in the industry and to develop infrastructure that is needed now. Investment must occur now to ensure a comprehensive approach to developing the groundwork for a domestic and export industry.

While many industrial energy requirements can be fulfilled by electricity produced by renewables, many cannot: in particular, the manufacturing of steel, glass, concrete, fertilizers, ammonia, plastics, and other key industrial products. The impact of ‘waiting for green’ on Australia’s current manufacturing industry could be catastrophic and cause further offshoring of good jobs.

‘‘As the leader of the union representing the hydrogen industry the prospect of missing the boat makes me incredibly anxious,’’ Daniel Walton said.

Purist objections based on blue, grey or any colour hydrogen must be sidelined for a more pragmatic and sensible approach if Australia is going to take advantage of the opportunity’s hydrogen presents. The viability of heavy industry and a strong export industry relies on significant investment in hydrogen now and into the next decade.

Australia needs to move beyond a binary of: green good; everything else bad. To generate enough renewable hydrogen to meet our energy needs and develop an export industry, Australia would need to generate 8 times as much electricity as the entire national grid. To achieve this, investment in hydrogen is needed today – and the only way to facilitate this level of investment is with an approach that accepts all hydrogen. Otherwise, we will simply tread water and get nowhere.

Read about the AWU visit to Western Sydney Green Hydrogen Facility

Read about how Australia must move quickly to become a global hydrogen superpower

Read about how Hydrogen is getting used to make clean steel 

Read about Australia’s first public hydrogen refuelling station 

Read about what Australia has to learn about hydrogen from it’s experience with gas

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