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Australia plans to become 'world leader' in renewable hydrogen

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The federal government of Australia has published plans to become a "world leader" in renewable hydrogen production, backed by A$370 million ($250m) in new funding.

Australia's National Hydrogen Strategy sets out plans to remove market barriers, improve regulatory consistency and build international trade partnerships, with a view to establishing significant domestic supply and competitive hydrogen exports by 2030. The strategy follows the publication of similar documents by most Australian states including Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.

The strategy was developed by chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel and has been endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council.

We see great potential for Australia, particularly Western Australia, to become a world leader in green hydrogen.

Perth-based renewable energy expert George Varma of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "We see great potential for Australia, particularly Western Australia, to become a world leader in green hydrogen".

"Western Australia's geography, existing trading relationship and trusted reputation all position us to become a major green hydrogen supplier to south east Asia. We are pleased that COAG has shown commitment to regulatory consistency and funding - both of which will be key drivers to the success of this new industry," he said.

The federal government had previously committed A$13.4m to the implementation and coordination of the strategy. This initial funding will include work with the state-level governments on reviewing regulatory barriers, coordinating a National Hydrogen Infrastructure Assessment and working with other countries to develop international standards for renewable hydrogen and establish trade partnerships.

New funding allocations worth A$370m in total will be made from existing Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) funding in support of new hydrogen projects. CEFC will set up a new A$300m 'Advancing Hydrogen Fund', while A$70m worth of ARENA funding will be used to develop electrolyser projects.

Although CEFC is already able to invest in hydrogen technologies, Australian finance minister Mathias Cormann said that the creation of a dedicated funding stream would send a clear signal to the market.

"Significant levels of new investment will be needed to successfully commercialise and scale a global hydrogen industry," he said. "In establishing the Advancing Hydrogen Fund, we are creating the appropriate policy and regulatory settings to drive increased investment in hydrogen."

The strategy proposes the creation of domestic 'hydrogen hubs' which will drive demand and encourage the development of the skills and investment that will be needed for Australia to develop a globally competitive hydrogen export industry. Existing Australian international trading partners including Japan and South Korea have set targets to import low emission hydrogen for energy and transportation purposes.

The federal government will review the existing regulatory frameworks underpinning renewable hydrogen development to ensure consistency and a supportive investment environment, while also prioritising consumer safety and environmental protection. Impact on energy prices and energy security will also be monitored.

Matt Canavan, minister for resources and Northern Australia, said: "There is potential for thousands of new jobs, many in regional areas, and billions of dollars in economic growth between now and 2050, with key energy export markets such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan taking action to diversify their energy sources".

"Australia is already one of the world's largest and most reliable and trusted energy suppliers and hydrogen will be one more energy export we can supply to existing and new markets," he said.

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