Monday, May 02, 2022

Green hydrogen is coming of age

It's the only reasonably feasible method of large-scale energy storage

Green hydrogen is expected to be a massive industry of its own in the next decade, used to generate electricity, fuel vehicles, and produce chemicals and heat, but how far do we have to go before we see this coming into play?

A convergence of political, technological, economic and climate factors have propelled the clean fuel to the forefront of net-zero solutions around the globe, including in Australia, where interest has been growing since the release of the National Hydrogen Strategy in 2019.

In countries such as Germany, the UK, China, and America, tens of billions of dollars have been invested by their governments to accelerate the production of green hydrogen, which is created from electrolysis powered by renewable electricity, such as wind and solar.

The electrolyser is the capital kit or equipment which converts green electricity and water into hydrogen, with industry experts flagging the sequential doubling in installed electrolyser capacity as proof its adoption is accelerating faster than even most bulls would have expected.

For example, the largest electrolyser in the world by install capacity doubled to 10MW in Japan back in 2020, before doubling again in 2021 to 20MW at the B├ęcancour project in Quebec, Canada.

As green hydrogen continues its trajectory from cottage industry to mainstream manufacturing, we will likely see a ramping-up in electrolyser capacity installed – with more GW capacity coming online.

In hard-to-abate sectors like long distance transport, chemical manufacturing, and iron and steel production, green hydrogen’s deployment is recognised as a key transition pillar to reach net zero emissions.

Australia has made much about its green hydrogen ambitions but has committed little actual funding.

Instead, the Morrison Government has shown its support by investing in various things such as a network of hydrogen technology clusters in major cities and regional towns across Australia.

With funding awarded by National Energy Resources Australia (NERA), the idea is each cluster will establish a thriving green hydrogen industry and identify supply chain investments.

The Government has also entered into a series of partnerships with Germany, South Korea, and Japan to explore the possibility of future hydrogen exports.

There has also been an abundance of non-binding announcements coming in thick and fast by companies looking to play a part.

One such company is Fortescue Future Industries, whose latest agreement with European utility business E-ON has been described by experts as representing a ‘seismic shift’ in the commercial scaling up of green hydrogen.

The two companies plan to work together to replace one-third of Germany’s Russian gas imports with 5 million tonnes per annum of renewable green hydrogen.

However, the market is still quite nascent with the majority of the current 90 or so projects currently in the feasibility and demonstration stages though the industry has not only scaled up in terms of the number of projects in the pipeline but also in terms of the average size.

Several ‘gigawatt’ scale projects have been announced in Australia, though they are still subject to final investment decisions and would come into operation from 2025 onwards.

Only a handful of projects have moved beyond the trial phase – such as with AGIG’s Hydrogen Park in South Australia, which has been operational since mid 2021.

Experts in the field say there is broad recognition across the Australian market that to capitalise on the hydrogen opportunity, partnerships/JVs need to be established across the hydrogen value chain.

And ultimately, to accelerate investment, a ‘renewable gas/hydrogen’ target would need to be established in Australia.

With supply chain and energy security being more important than ever, thanks to rampant fossil fuel inflation and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there is no doubt momentum for decarbonisation will continue.


'Husband' and 'wife' are now on the offensive words list

An Australian university has apologised after a transgender student objected to an online list of terms deemed offensive to minorities, which includes various gay slurs as well as the words 'husband' and 'wife'.

Flinders University in South Australia removed their harassment and discrimination guidelines after the complaint, agreeing the list was 'no longer suitable'.

The main gripe from the transgender community was that the list considered the term transsexual 'appropriate' when it is now regarded as an 'outdated and offensive'.

Another sticking point was the reference to the 'condition of trans-sexualism'.

The World Health Organisation stopped considering being transgender as a 'mental health condition' in 2019.

It remains unclear why 'husband' and 'wife' were ever included on the list and how the university came to conclusion the words could cause offense or be deemed discriminatory.

A staff member who saw the Facebook post the next morning reviewed the contentious guidelines and offered an apology saying the list would immediately be updated.

'We agree that the content on the website is inappropriate,' a statement by Finders University said.

'We are taking immediate action to remove it and will engage with students and the wider diversity community on our campuses to review the content.'

'Equality, diversity and inclusion are fundamental values that we are committed to upholding in words and in practice – it is clear that improvement is needed and we still have work to do. 'We commit to doing this work.'

Jane Russo of Transcend, a national support group for transgender people, said the terms used by Flinders University were very dated. 'We've gone beyond this kind of language,' she told the Advertiser. 'When it comes to husband and wife it really comes down to a matter of personal choice.

'As for transsexual – it is a mix of language which misconstrues sexuality and gender.'


Welcome to Net Zero: Australian Households are warned to brace for rising power bills as wholesale electricity prices more than double

Wholesale electricity prices are more expensive this year compared to 2021 with the price hike expected to be passed onto families already struggling with cost of living pressures.

Households are being warned of higher power bills in 2022 and 2023. Official figures reveal electricity prices have doubled in the past year – setting up another cost of living fight between the Prime Minister and Anthony Albanese – who have both pledged to keep costs down.

Households battling the rising cost of living are being warned to brace for skyrocketing power bills as electricity prices more than doubled over the past year.

The report from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) shows wholesale electricity jumped 141 per cent to $87 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in the first quarter of 2022, compared to $36 MWh at the same time last year.

In Queensland alone record demand saw wholesale prices surge to $150 MWh for the quarter – the second highest rate the state has seen for any quarter in over 20 years.

The prices are expected to flow onto consumers with the wholesale price of energy accounting for 30 to 40 per cent of a household’s power bill.

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The AEMO said the combination of coal generator outages, an increase in demand due to heatwaves and costly fossil fuel production were behind the latest price hikes.

Violette Mouchaileh, AEMO’s Executive General Manager Reform Delivery, said northern-states were hardest hit because of coal-fire outages putting pressure on supply.

“Wholesale prices in Queensland and NSW were again significantly higher than in southern states,” Ms Mouchaileh said.

“This was due to the larger price-setting role of black coal generation and system security constraints limiting daytime electricity transfers from Victoria into NSW, despite an average energy price difference of $48/MWh.”

The latest figures come as an election debate ramps up over the pressure of the rising cost of living.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has claimed his government has delivered “affordable, reliable energy” and warned power bills would be driven up under Labor’s energy policy.

“That’s why over the last two years we’ve been able to cut the cost of electricity by 8 per cent, and since I became prime minister it’s fallen by over 9 per cent,” he said on Thursday.

“When Labor were in power, electricity prices doubled. They increased by over 100 per cent, an average annual increase of over 12 per cent.”

Meanwhile, Labor's Jim Chalmers said the energy spike is a "cost of living crisis" which happened under the Morrison Government.

“Power prices are going up, healthcare’s becoming harder to access and harder to afford, groceries are going through the roof, petrol is unaffordable for a lot families right across the board, there are cost of living pressures and this is a cost of living crisis on Scott Morrison’s watch," he said in a Friday press conference.


Election 2022: Don’t mention the climate wars

Anthony Albanese has had his “never, ever” moment of this year’s federal election campaign: “There will be no carbon tax, ever,” he vowed on Wednesday under pressure during a radio interview.

Julia Gillard, as Labor prime minister in 2010, was there before him: “There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.” And in 1995 John Howard, then opposition leader, responded to an aggressive journalist asking if there would “never, ever” be a GST: “Never ever. It’s dead.”

Albanese’s pledge was driven by a recognition that the impact of a carbon price in whatever form was no longer theoretical but a political reality. As well, it is a sign that subcontracting out the climate change attack on Liberal MPs in affluent inner-city electorates to Greens warriors and Climate 200 “teal” activists is not a complete answer for Labor. There is still the same challenge of being able to promote climate action in the city while protecting jobs outside the city.

It also was a tacit admission that Labor is failing on explaining its policies and how they would work – not just to the general voting population but to specific areas of pivotal political importance.

At the halfway mark of the campaign and on the eve of Albanese’s campaign launch, which will contain the detail of policies three years in the making and likely involve US Democrat-style infrastructure spending as well as social support in housing and childcare, there is a need for more rigour from Labor.

Apart from the small-target strategy leading to a paucity of major detailed policy, there has been an inability to explain how the policies would work and what they would cost. Since the budget, central promises and policies from Labor such as the guarantee of 24-hour nurses in aged care, border protection, carbon pricing, China’s aggression in the Pacific, new agricultural visa limits and a wage rise for health workers have been paused, reworked, confused and poorly explained.

While Albanese spent seven days in Covid isolation at home his B team, particularly would-be deputy prime minister and defence minister Richard Marles, badly handled the potential impact of the price for carbon offsets for 215 industries – including 15 coalminers in the crucial Hunter Valley of NSW.

For a week before Albanese acted, the issue of job losses for mining communities in the Hunter had festered as former resources minister Matt Canavan campaigned for the Nationals in the seat of Hunter, where long-term traditional Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon is retiring. Local Labor MP for Shortland Pat Conroy, the party’s assistant climate change spokesman, and MP for Paterson Meryl Swanson both played down the threat of Labor’s policy of using the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to hasten the pace of emissions reduction and force companies to buy carbon credits to offset carbon emissions.

Anthony Albanese will rejoin the labor campaign trail today – when the Opposition takes it pitch to lower the cost of…
Conroy said the coalminers were exempt and Swanson said they would “work out” a convenient arrangement. Both were wrong and both were contradicted by Chris Bowen, the climate change spokesman. Marles, who is also employment spokesman, couldn’t explain the policy when it was announced and criticised six months ago for the potential to close businesses and oust 100,000 workers, and this week he simply couldn’t answer the questions.

As the Coalition moved into a strong regional phase of the campaign with Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce out in the bush and out of the headlines and Scott Morrison announcing the creation of 450,000 regional jobs over five years, in Queensland the coalminers’ fears were growing and spreading.

In response to Labor claims it was the same scheme introduced by Tony Abbott to get the removal of the carbon tax through the Senate, Morrison said: “What Labor is doing is binding them on this and issuing penalties on those companies so they couldn’t be more different. What Labor has is a tax, a sneaky carbon tax on traditional industries in this country, and that’s not good for regional Australia. It is not good at all.” Whitehaven Coal chief executive Paul Flynn said he feared Labor’s strengthened safeguards mechanism would be a “carbon levy by stealth” and it was not true it was the same as the Coalition’s safeguard mechanism.

“The fact the ALP sees such an enlarged role for the Clean Energy Regulator in negotiating with impacted facilities suggests some in Labor are only just beginning to turn their minds to what this policy might look like in practice and what the impacts could be across the economy,” Flynn told The Australian.

Sky News reporter Julia Bradley says Labor is keeping an “incredibly tight lid” on the movements of Opposition…
By not being on top of detail, not being able to carry an argument and, most crucially, not being able to say what the policy would mean until after the election, the Labor team was not just endangering the seat of Hunter – which was saved for Labor by One Nation preferences in 2019 – but also other seats in NSW and more broadly in Queensland and resource-rich Western Australia.

Labor needs to win seats in Queensland and to hold seats such as the Hunter if it is to have any chance of realising Albanese’s aspiration of a majority Labor government. That’s why Albanese had to cut the Gordian knot of a carbon tax from his home in inner-Sydney’s Marrickville.

When political leaders make firm declarations during election campaigns, the matter of most immediate importance is not whether they will be believed or whether they will breach the pledge – what is most important is why they said it. After years of avoiding absolute declarations, dodging tricky questions or batting away aggression why does a leader feel compelled to break all the election campaign rules and make an absolute promise that may have to be broken in some form in the future?

It’s because they believe they have no choice, that the issue is absolutely important in the electorate, is crucial to ensuring victory, and there needs to be an irrevocable denial to kill the debate.

Albanese and Morrison are revisiting the climate wars between the major parties when a bipartisan policy of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 would have seemed to be grounds for a neutralisation of the debate after decades of political infighting.

When Albanese released the ALP policy six months ago he said it was time to “put the climate wars ­behind us (and) unite around a common vision”. “We can become a renewable energy superpower,” he said. “Over the last decade the Coalition has announced over 20 energy policies and not landed a single one. Business has missed out on certainty, and Australians have missed out on jobs.”

The reason for the revisitation is because the common 2050 target means the implementation of the policy, the pace of change, the incentives or punishments used to achieve targets and the balance between jobs created and lost is now a real argument with real impacts on industry and workers.

It is not just a two-way fight between the ALP and the Coalition but also has the Greens and Climate 200 teal independents cannibalising each other and Labor as they try to oust inner-city Liberals such as Josh Frydenberg and Tim Wilson in Melbourne and Trent Zimmerman and Dave Sharma in Sydney. At appearances in his own electorate of Kooyong and neighbouring Liberal-held seats, the Treasurer was not asked about regional jobs threatened by carbon pricing but whether net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 was still Coalition policy and would transgender women be allowed to use new sports facilities.

At the other end of the fight Coalition and Labor MPs face challenges from One Nation and United Australia Party, which campaign on both the major parties selling out regional workers. Morrison’s continued commitment this week to his policy of net-zero by 2050, agreed at the Glasgow climate change conference last year, has cost the Coalition a lot of support among conservative voters.

So, Albanese and Morrison are still in the climate wars, it’s just that the dichotomies between city and regional areas are greater, there are more players and a carbon price – which Gillard had the foolhardy bravery to call a carbon tax – is much, much closer.




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