An economically-sustainable hydrogen industry could soon be on the cards according to a blueprint released by CSIRO, the national science agency, which found that cost competitiveness is firmly on the horizon.
The National Hydrogen Roadmap sets out a path to develop the action and investment plans required to realise the full benefits of a hydrogen economy. Hydrogen is a clean-burning fuel with a range of uses, from powering vehicles, to storing energy.
Hydrogen can service multiple markets and if produced using low-emissions energy sources, will enable deep decarbonisation across the energy and industrial sectors.
Roadmap findings include:
- Hydrogen technologies are reaching maturity, with the narrative now shifting from R&D to market activation.
- Hydrogen presents a new export opportunity for Australia and could also play a significant role in enabling the further uptake of renewable energy.
- While the benefits are clear, current barriers to market activation include a lack of supporting infrastructure such as hydrogen refuelling stations for transport, and the cost of hydrogen supply for some applications.
- An appropriate policy framework could create a 'market pull' for hydrogen, with investment in infrastructure then likely to follow.
- In or around 2025, clean hydrogen could be cost-competitive with existing industrial feedstocks such as natural gas, and energy carriers such as batteries in many applications.
CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall described the Roadmap as a unique opportunity.
"Australia has a unique and urgent opportunity to turn significant natural resources, including coal, gas, and renewables like solar and wind energy, into a low-emissions energy product and ship it around the world – in some cases literally exporting Aussie sunshine," Dr Marshall said.
"CSIRO is at the forefront of innovation with our partners in industry, government and the research sector, like our recently developed, world-first membrane to separate hydrogen from ammonia for fuel cell vehicles.
"This National Hydrogen Roadmap provides a blueprint for growing Australia's hydrogen industry through coordinated investment to be globally competitive."
CSIRO Hydrogen Future Science Platform Director Dr Patrick Hartley said industry interest was evident.
"We've established a strong network of partners and collaborators that support current, practical research and technology development initiatives right across the hydrogen energy value chain," Dr Hartley said.
"And while much of the required technology is at a mature stage, there is considerable scope for further R&D to further improve process efficiencies and develop new applications."
The national science agency consulted broadly to develop the Roadmap, which was sponsored by 21 industry and government bodies.
The National Hydrogen Roadmap provides a blueprint for the development of a hydrogen industry in Australia.
Recently there has been a considerable amount of work undertaken (both globally and domestically) seeking to quantify the economic opportunities associated with hydrogen. The National Hydrogen Roadmap takes that analysis a step further by focusing on how those opportunities can be realised.
The primary objective of the Roadmap is to provide a blueprint for the development of a hydrogen industry in Australia. With a number of activities already underway, it is designed to help inform the next series of investment amongst various stakeholder groups (e.g. industry, government and research) so that the industry can continue to scale in a coordinated manner.
Pathways to an economically sustainable industry
The low emissions hydrogen value chain now consists of a series of mature technologies. While there is considerable scope for further R&D, this level of maturity has meant that the narrative has shifted from one of technology development to market activation.
Barriers to market activation stem from a lack of supporting infrastructure and/or the cost of hydrogen supply. However, both barriers can be overcome via a series of strategic investments along the value chain from both the private and public sector.
The report shows that while government assistance is needed to kick-start the industry, it can become economically sustainable thereafter. This is demonstrated by first assessing the target price of hydrogen needed for it be competitive with other energy carriers and feedstocks. Second, the assessment considers the current state of the industry, namely the cost and maturity of the underpinning technologies and infrastructure. It then identifies the material cost drivers and consequently, the key priorities and areas for investment needed to make hydrogen competitive in each of the identified markets.
The opportunity for hydrogen to compete favourably on a cost basis in local applications such as transport and remote area power systems is within reach based on potential cost reductions to 2025. Further, the development of a hydrogen export industry represents a significant opportunity for Australia and a potential ‘game changer’ for the local industry and the broader energy sector due to associated increases in scale.
Download the National Hydrogen Roadmap