May 20, 2020

ARENA fast-tracks hydrogen with A$70mn funding round

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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has decided to fast-track the R&D of hydrogen energy in the country with an A$70mn funding round. 

Widely considered to be a next-gen fuel source when the technology to harness it has been sufficiently developed, 1kg of hydrogen contains the same amount of energy as 2.8kg of gasoline, making it far easier to store in sufficiently large quantities for power. 

Even though less is theoretically needed than gasoline, hydrogen is one of the most abundant elements on Earth - eliminating a primary issue with fossil fuels: scarcity. 

It is also non-polluting, can be produced locally and is even a by-product of several renewable and non-renewable energy sources. ARENA’s decision to exploit this advantageous fuel-source is indicative of its exciting potential.

Developing hydrogen

ARENA’s specified $70mn funding is hoped to support two hydrogen projects with a minimum capacity of 5MW, although 10 MW is stated as being preferable. 

These projects - electrolysers (an electrically driven process which breaks down water into its constituent parts) - are conceived as being among the largest of their kind in the world, and will be powered exclusively by renewable electricity. 

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The CEO of ARENA, Darren Miller, considers the funding round to represent a potentially monumental step forwards towards commercially viable hydrogen energy, both domestically and internationally.

“With this significant investment, we expect to take the sector to the next level. We’ve supported a range of feasibility studies and pilot projects over the past two years, but now we need to start the journey of producing hydrogen at scale.

“Through this round, ARENA aims to share knowledge on technical and commercial parameters for commercial-scale renewable hydrogen production for domestic and international markets,” he stated.

Expanding the frontiers of energy

Despite the apparent advantages of hydrogen, it remains relatively underused in the current energy market; it is currently utilised primarily in the industrial and chemical sectors as ‘blue hydrogen’ - hydrogen energy derived from a fossil-fuel source (i.e. natural gas). 

Miller believes that Australia can become a pioneer in ‘green hydrogen’, which is derived from renewable energy production. 

“[Australia is] blessed with some of the world’s best wind and solar resources, a large sparsely populated landmass, and as a major energy and resources exporter, we are already an experienced and trusted trading partner for countries like Japan and South Korea that will be the future hydrogen importers.”

Car manufacturers in the APAC region, such as Toyota with the Mirai and Hyundai with the NEXO, have already put the wheels of hydrogen-powered cars into motion. If ARENA’s projects gain momentum, Australia could be instrumental in fueling a new era.

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