The Australian government is providing more funding to help launch the country’s hydrogen industry as Prime Minister Scott Morrison heads to Washington for talks where climate change is expected to be on the agenda.
The Australian government revealed Monday it was boosting its existing A$1.2 billion (US$868.2 million) hydrogen investment, with the pledge of an additional A$150 million.
The additional cash will go towards the government’s Clean Hydrogen Industrial Hubs programme, helping provide funding for hydrogen hubs at two additional locations.
It is our ambition to produce the cheapest clean hydrogen in the world
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
This will see the programme now provide funding for hubs at seven prospective locations across Australia — including Bell Bray in Tasmania, Darwin in the Northern Territory, Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, Gladstone in Queensland, Latrobe Valley in Victoria, Hunter Valley in New South Wales and Western Australia’s Pilbara region.
The now A$464 million grant programme provides up to A$3 million grants for project consortia to initially progress feasibility and design work, along with up to A$70 million to help progress the roll-out of projects.
“We are accelerating the development of our Australian hydrogen industry and it is our ambition to produce the cheapest clean hydrogen in the world, transforming our transport, energy, resources and manufacturing sectors," Morrison said.
"This is good for jobs, good for our environment and contributes to our global effort to reduce emissions through technology not taxes.”
Australia’s Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor added that a hydrogen industry in Australia had the potential to create roughly 8000 new jobs and generate over A$11 billion per annum in gross domestic product by 2050.
“Accelerating the commercial deployment of priority low emissions technologies such as hydrogen so they reach cost parity with higher emissions alternatives is critical to Australia’s technology led approach to reducing emissions,” Taylor said.
“A thriving hydrogen sector will help Australia to achieve its emission-reduction goals while continuing to grow our economy and support existing industries.”
Taylor also noted the hydrogen hubs were expected to help Australia achieve its stretch goal of hydrogen production at under A$2 a kilogram under the government’s Technology Investment Roadmap.
The government claims its hydrogen funding will help de-risk projects and quickly achieve the scale necessary to establish new export industries and meet the growing energy needs of the Indo Pacific region, with Australia aiming to be “a major global player” in hydrogen exports and production by 2030.
The announcement of the additional funding came just days after opposition climate and energy minister Chris Bowen claimed the current government lacked ambition in building the nation’s hydrogen industry.
It also comes as Morrison travels to the US for the Quad leaders’ summit at the White House, where he will meet with US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
While talks are expected to be dominated by China’s growing military and economic clout, the leaders are also expected to discuss the current coronavirus pandemic, as well as the global climate crisis.
Morrison is under mounting pressure to commit to stronger emissions reduction targets in the lead up to COP26 in the UK in November.
Last month Biden’s deputy special envoy for climate change, Jonathan Pershing, told the Better Futures Forum that Australia’s current emissions reduction targets were not enough, while UK's Minister of State, Alok Sharma, also called on Australia to “step up with big, bold commitments ahead of COP26” while speaking at the same conference.
Australia currently has no firm commitment on when it intends to reach net zero emissions, while its 2030 emissions reduction target is only 26% - 28% below 2005 levels.
This is well behind the UK’s ambitious pledge to cut emissions by 68% by 2030, while the US is targeting a 52% reduction by the same date, with both nation’s targeting net zero emissions by 2050.