Western Australia seeks to boost renewable hydrogen production

Out-Law News | 16 Aug 2019 | 9:03 am | 1 min. read

Western Australia (WA) has published plans to boost the production and export of renewable hydrogen gas, including a new A$10 million ($6.8m) fund to facilitate private sector investment in the industry.

The plans set out in WA's renewable hydrogen strategy (32-page / 2.5MB PDF) will "put WA at the forefront of what will be a major new global energy industry", according to regional development minister Alannah MacTiernan.

The current global demand for hydrogen is more than 70 million tonnes per year, but the majority of this is for industrial uses and not produced through low-emissions methods, according to the strategy document. The International Energy Agency has forecast growing demand for hydrogen as a fuel source over the next decade, while countries such as Japan and South Korea have set targets to import low-emission hydrogen for energy and transportation purposes.

Varma George

George Varma

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Excitement has certainly been building around renewable hydrogen as a significant new green energy technology, both in terms of its potential in the domestic energy market as well as for export.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council has appointed Australia’s chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, to develop a National Hydrogen Strategy, which is expected to be ready for the end of this year. Much of the work required to develop appropriate standards and regulation supporting the growth of the renewable hydrogen industry will need to be undertaken at the national level, and the WA government intends to engage with and participate in these processes.

Energy law expert George Varma of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “Excitement has certainly been building around renewable hydrogen as a significant new green energy technology, both in terms of its potential in the domestic energy market as well as for export. Western Australia, with its vast renewable energy generation potential and its existing trading relationships in markets such as Japan and South Korea, is ideally placed to capitalise on this emerging industry.”

“It is encouraging to see the WA state government taking active steps to support innovative new green technologies and its vision to develop Western Australia into a significant producer, exporter and user of renewable hydrogen,” he said.

The strategy document sets out four areas of focus for the WA government: export; the potential industrial applications of renewable hydrogen in remote locations; blending renewable hydrogen in the main natural gas networks; and the use of renewable hydrogen as transportation fuel. It also commits the WA government to working closely with the federal government and relevant bodies to push for the necessary regulatory reforms that will allow for the growth of the renewable hydrogen industry.

As part of the strategy, the WA government will set up a dedicated renewable hydrogen unit to oversee implementation of the strategy. The unit will provide the industry with a central point of contact, as well as coordinate the work of government agencies on growing the renewable hydrogen industry, both domestically and for export.