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Energy & Utilities

A commercial hydrogen sector – what needs to happen?

3 Mar 2020, by Amy Sarcevic

Building a fully-fledged, commercially viable, hydrogen sector will require both long-term planning and a sense of urgency, says Chief Executive of the Australian Hydrogen Council, Dr. Fiona Simon.

Speaking with Informa Connect, ahead of the Australian Hydrogen Conference, Dr. Simon said that we need to be finding ways to activate the market now; but recognise that the sector may not reach maturity for ten years.

Dr. Simon says there has already been excellent progress in identifying and mapping the industry’s desired evolution, such as the work done by Dr. Alan Finkel and the National Hydrogen Strategy Taskforce in 2019. However, further government support is required to lift the sector from its pre-commercial state.

“We need to be looking seriously at policy mechanisms, such as targets and standards. Policy settings can help give the market certainty for investment. There is a lot to do here, and we need to maintain a sense of urgency without wearing everyone out,” she said.

Dr. Simon says the private sector will invest, but at this stage further government funding arrangements will need to be committed, where necessary, to close the funding gap.

“The National Hydrogen Strategy was very welcome, and we now need to bring that to life,” she said. “This requires both investment and coordination across the jurisdictions.”

In terms of industry’s role in activating the market, Dr. Simon advises that the Australian Hydrogen Council has created member working groups to help governments implement the COAG Energy Council agreements in the National Hydrogen Strategy.

“Industry should be thinking along the lines of, ‘how can we help do some of the heavy lifting?’ Thinking ahead will be a critical part of this,” she said.

In a regulatory context, Dr. Simon advocates a strong framework, which considers the various industry interconnections a fully-fledged hydrogen sector will bring.

“We need a regulatory regime that builds around the shared issues, risks and possibilities; and facilitates “sector coupling”,” she said.

“The beauty of hydrogen is its versatility. It can be used in place of natural gas, as an energy carrier in place of fuel, for industrial and chemical uses, for storage and to make the electricity grid more secure.

“This is fantastic, but it does create complexities. It joins up sectors that weren’t joined up before.

“Uniting different governments and portfolios is possibly the best strategy on this front,” she added.

Fiona Simon is due to address the Australian Hydrogen Conference – hosted by Informa Connect in partnership with the Australian Hydrogen Council – where she will open up further debate on this issue.

With high-level political support and more than 200 senior delegates, the conference aims to get all the industry’s “heavy hitters” in one room at a critical time of unprecedented interest in hydrogen.

Building on the success of existing government interventions, this flagship event will aim to develop an industry roadmap for the next decade and beyond.

“I’m really looking forward to hearing from the floor about how we can all make this work. It’s an exciting time for the industry and we all have a part to play now in making it a success,” Dr. Simon concluded.

Learn more and register about the Australian Hydrogen Conference here.

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