renewable hydrogen

Last week we learnt that almost 10,000 jobs had been created in Australia’s renewable energy industry from the 69 wind and solar plants that are currently being built. But there’s another job-creating clean energy alternative on the rise: renewable hydrogen.

Hydrogen is set to become one of our biggest exports in the near future, with Australian hydrogen exports expected to contribute $1.7 billion to the economy and create 2800 jobs by 2030 (provided policy-makers get on board), according to Australian chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel’s report Hydrogen for Australia’s Future.

Renewable hydrogen is made by splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen through a process called electrolysis, powered by solar, wind or hydro electricity. With our sunny climate and abundance of land area, Australia is well placed to derive hydrogen by electrolysis at an industrial scale.

In August, a method of producing clean hydrogen from ammonia was discovered. This means it will be safer and easier to ship overseas to countries such as Japan, which has less favourable weather conditions for generating solar and wind energy.

There are also a number of domestic uses for hydrogen as an alternative clean energy source.

Since the release of the hydrogen report in August, there’s been pockets of activity all over the country. For starters, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) recently announced $22 million in R&D funding into exporting hydrogen projects at various universities and research organisations. 

On Monday ARENA committed $7.5 million for a trial of renewable hydrogen in Sydney’s gas network. Costing $15 million in total, the project involves energy infrastructure company Jemena building a demonstration scale 500 kW electrolyser at its facility in western Sydney.

The renewable hydrogen generated at the facility will be injected into Jemena’s existing gas network, which delivers gas to 1.3 million customers in NSW. The gas can be safely added to the natural gas mains at concentrations of up to 10 per cent without affecting pipelines, appliances or regulations, according to ARENA.

Queensland is already positioning itself as a potential hotbed for the lucrative hydrogen industry. Last month, the government released a discussion paper titled Advancing Queensland’s hydrogen industry.

“Queensland has the potential to become a global player in the production and export of hydrogen by using our natural resources (including grid scale solar installations), creating a new wave of high-value, innovation-focused jobs in the process,” the paper states.

Following the alarming findings of the IPCC 1.5? report earlier this month, Dr Finkel took the opportunity to peddle Australia’s hydrogen export industry in an opinion piece in Fairfax papers.

“So it may well be that in 10 years’ time, the trains in Tokyo will be powered by Australian sunshine. The opportunity is ours to claim,” he wrote.

A broad strategic plan for the development of hydrogen in Australia is being developed by Dr Finkel for consideration by the COAG Energy Council in December. 

This is a space to watch. But in the meantime, here are our pick of the jobs this week:

Arcadis are looking for a Sustainability Consultant to join the Melbourne-based sustainability team. Responsibilities include delivering and managing the delivery of sustainability advisory services.

Multinational professional services and engineering firm Arup are seeking a Senior Sustainability Consultant to join the environmental and resources team in Sydney. 

The Mitchell Shire Council are filling an Environmental Planning and Sustainability Officer secondment opportunity. Responsibilities include providing environmental advice to internal council departments in relation to environmental and biodiversity matters, such as statutory planning referrals, capital works projects and operational activities.

An opportunity has opened up to work with Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning Sustainability Fund as a Program Analyst, which supports a broad range of initiatives, including funding projects relating to waste, litter, contaminated land, illegal dumping, energy efficiency, renewable energy, resource efficiency, climate change adaptation and biodiversity.

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