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In recent months Commonwealth and State Governments have announced a number of funding and policy developments dedicated to “energising” Australia’s position in the global hydrogen economy. Of significance is the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s (CEFC) $300 million Advancing Hydrogen Fund, one of the largest commitments made to the hydrogen sector by any government in the world, which is aimed at building investor confidence in the Australian hydrogen industry. Those wanting to participate in the hydrogen market should be aware of the regulatory framework and closely observe the regulatory reform likely to take place as the Australian hydrogen industry starts to take shape.
On 4 May 2020, the Australian Government launched a $300 million Advancing Hydrogen Fund. The Government has mandated the CEFC to provide debt and/or equity finance to support hydrogen-powered projects that align with the National Hydrogen Strategy (see below), including projects which have State or Territory Government financial support.
CEFC Chief Executive Officer Ian Learmonth has noted: “CEFC finance remains central to filling market gaps, whether driven by technology, development or commercial challenges. We are confident we can use our capital to help build investor confidence in the emerging hydrogen sector, which is an exciting extension of our investment focus.”
As an early priority, the CEFC intends to invest in projects included in the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA’s) $70 million Renewable Hydrogen Deployment Funding Round (ARENA’s Round). ARENA’s Round will support the development of two large-scale renewable hydrogen projects. To qualify for funding:
Expressions of Interest for the funding round closed on 26 May 2020. ARENA is targeting a final announcement on the award of funding by 30 November 2020.
While subsequent project investments have not yet been detailed, the CEFC has indicated that projects seeking finance must be large-scale commercial projects, generally requiring at least $10 million in finance, combined with additional private sector funding. In considering future investment proposals the CEFC will prioritise projects that focus on one or more of the following:
developing export and domestic hydrogen supply chains, including hydrogen industry infrastructure;
establishing hydrogen hubs; or
assisting in building domestic demand for hydrogen.
The following State based government funding and investment initiatives are also currently underway:
Earlier this year, through its $10 million Renewable Hydrogen Fund the Western Australian Government invested $1.68 million across seven renewable hydrogen feasibility studies. This funding aligns with the Western Australian Government’s Renewable Hydrogen Strategy, which was established in July last year to accelerate the advancement of the State’s renewable hydrogen industry.
The South Australian Government has committed over $1 million as part of its Hydrogen Action Plan towards identifying locations for renewable hydrogen production and export infrastructure, and has allocated $4.9 million through its $150 Renewable Technology Fund towards the Australian Gas Network’s demonstration project, ‘Hydrogen Park South Australia’.
Other hydrogen related national policy developments that have taken place in recent years include the National Hydrogen Roadmap and Technology Investment Roadmap and the National Hydrogen Strategy.
On 23 August 2018, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, in consultation with industry and government, launched the National Hydrogen Roadmap (Hydrogen Roadmap). The Hydrogen Roadmap set out a plan for the development of the Australian hydrogen production and export industry, and identifies hydrogen’s potential applications and the commercial viability of key component technologies.
On 21 May 2020, the Federal Government unveiled its Technology Investment Roadmap Discussion Paper (Technology Roadmap) outlining Australia’s energy priorities. According to the Technology Roadmap, the Australian Government will continue to invest in renewable projects and low emissions technologies that will decrease Australia's carbon emissions. This roadmap reinforces the Australian Government’s previously announced goal of producing hydrogen at a competitive price (below $2 per kilogram), with the medium-term seeing an expansion of the domestic hydrogen industry and the long term, the development of an export industry, leveraging off Australia’s expertise and infrastructure to develop strong supply chains in the global low emissions economy.
At the 22nd Energy Council meeting held on 22 November 2019, the Council of Australian Government’s Energy Group endorsed the National Hydrogen Strategy (Hydrogen Strategy). The Hydrogen Strategy reflects the Australian Government’s policy shift from investment in hydrogen related projects (with over $146 million invested between 2015 and 2019), towards developing the regulatory and economic framework to make Australia a major global player in the global hydrogen industry by 2030. It is estimated in the Hydrogen Strategy that, by 2050, the Australian hydrogen industry could generate approximately 7,600 jobs and add up to $11 billion a year in additional Gross Domestic Product.
The significant financial and policy commitments by State and Federal Governments to ‘energise’ the Australian hydrogen industry have the potential to deliver the following developments:
accelerating the deployment of large-scale electrolyser and renewable energy hydrogen technologies, giving rise to reduced technology costs, improvements to supply chain and industry expertise, increased offtake opportunities, and environmental sustainability;
providing financial support to project proponents as they strive to accelerate hydrogen developments;
informing investment amongst various stakeholders including industry, government and research so that the hydrogen industry can continue to progress in a coordinated manner; and
contributing to Australia’s economic prosperity by creating well-paid jobs, particularly in regional areas.
Those wanting to enter the hydrogen market should be aware of the regulatory framework and closely observe the regulatory reform likely to take place as the Australian hydrogen industry starts to take shape.