Hydrogen production and long-duration energy storage are among the five priority technologies that Australia is backing through a new roadmap that aims to slash emissions.
The country will invest more than AU$18 billion (US$12.91 billion) in low emissions technologies over the next decade, with low carbon steel and aluminium, carbon capture and storage (CSS), and carbon sequestration in soil also identified as priorities.
Among the economic “stretch goals” announced by energy minister Angus Taylor are clean hydrogen production under AU$2 per kilogram and long-duration energy storage (6-8 hours or more) dispatched at less than AU$100 per MWh. According to the government, this second target “will enable reliable, firmed wind and solar at prices around the average wholesale electricity price of today”.
“If these technologies achieve widespread deployment globally, they will significantly reduce emissions from energy, transport, agriculture and heavy industry,” Taylor said.
But the roadmap falls short of committing to a net zero emissions target by 2050, and critics raised concerns that the focus on clean hydrogen, instead of renewable hydrogen, could favour fossil fuel-based production.
The government plan says clean hydrogen from off-grid gas with CCS and coal gasification with CCS “might be the lowest cost clean production methods in the short-term”, although renewable production methods are expected to decrease in cost as clean hydrogen demand grows.
Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt said: “Hydrogen forces the government to make a choice: green hydrogen, made using renewables, harnessing Australia's boundless clean energy reserves, and creating hundreds of thousands of green jobs; or blue hydrogen, to support their donors in the gas industry.”
‘Missed opportunity’ for renewables
The roadmap labels solar and wind as “mature technologies” alongside coal and gas. The government is looking to the private sector to lead investment in these sectors, although it will step in when there has been a clear market failure or when jobs are at risk.
Australian renewable energy association the Clean Energy Council lauded efforts to develop clean hydrogen, energy storage and green steel, but warned the roadmap is a “missed opportunity” not to prioritise the increased and better use of the country’s wind and solar resources.
“While wind and solar are now proven technologies and attracting enormous investor support, they are also the technologies that can have the greatest impact in decarbonising Australia's energy system and economy,” Kane Thornton, Clean Energy Council chief executive, said. “It is therefore surprising and disappointing that the roadmap fails to address the range of barriers to their accelerated deployment.”
While Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government’s position is to reach net zero carbon dioxide emissions “in the second half of the century”, all Australian states are now committed to that target by 2050 after the Northern Territory announced its blueprint in July.