Australia has certain natural advantages over the UK when it comes to clean energy production.
It is a little easier to cover vast areas of the hinterland with solar panels and wind farms than the green hilly fields of England.
This is one of the reasons our antipode cousins are vying to lead the global race to produce industrial quantities of hydrogen.
Green Energy: Australia is considering plans to build the world’s largest renewable energy hub in the western hinterland, which will cost £ 54 billion and cover nearly 6,000 square miles.
Countries around the world are investing in hydrogen energy to reduce their carbon footprint. But they are also keen not to miss out on what experts believe should be a multi-million dollar industry.
Still heavily dependent on coal and natural gas, Australia has been widely condemned for refusing to become carbon neutral by 2050.
But the country’s ambitions to produce clean hydrogen – the most abundant molecule on Earth – are truly grandiose.
Plans were presented to build the world’s largest renewable energy center in the hinterland of Western Australia, with an area ten times the size of Greater London.
At a cost of up to £ 54 billion and an area of nearly 6,000 square miles, it will produce up to 50 gigawatts of wind and solar power, doubling the country’s generating capacity.
But that energy will be used exclusively to power machines called electrolyzers, which run electric currents through water to split each H2O molecule into two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. The advantage of this energy intensive process is, of course, the absence of carbon emissions.
It is hoped that vast quantities of hydrogen could be sold across Australia and overseas to use green buses, next-generation cars and ships, and to heat homes.
The project is not expected to launch until 2030, even if it receives the green light from the Western Australian government. But its breathtaking scale may make Boris Johnson – a man known for his love of daring infrastructure projects – a little envy.
The government has its own more modest ambitions to harness hydrogen energy in Britain’s northern industrial centers, from Teesside to the Humber.
He is ready to publish his hydrogen strategy, which outlines plans to raise billions of pounds of private investment in hydrogen production. This is part of the so-called green industrial revolution, which also includes investments in offshore wind power, nuclear power and zero-emission vehicles.
Addressing Red Wall voters in the north, the prime minister predicted that Teesside, Merseyside and Mansfield could benefit from a boom in green jobs as they become major hydrogen energy hubs.
Barnaby Wharton, director of future electricity systems for the Renewable UK lobbying group, said: “The great thing about hydrogen is that we can produce it from renewable electricity – so it’s really zero carbon.”
Industrial titan Ineos, run by Sir Jim Ratcliffe (pictured), is investing £ 25m in a pure hydrogen fund called Hydrogen One Capital Growth, which is set to go public this year.
Several projects are already underway in northern England and Scotland and have received government funding. Among them is Hynet, which aims to become the UK’s first zero-emission industrial zone by investing in a hydrogen plant near Chester.
The project, backed by a consortium of investors including British chemical giant Johnson Matthey and India’s Essar Oil, plans to produce hydrogen using natural gas by capturing and storing carbon dioxide.
In the Humber area, among the old industrial cities of Hull, Scunthorpe and Grimsby, another hydrogen power generation scheme is being implemented.
A consortium of investors has teamed up to develop huge pots, using the power of the nearby Hornsea One offshore wind farm to produce zero-carbon hydrogen.
The prime minister also pledged to supply 4,000 UK-built hydrogen or electric buses, providing funding for the bus manufacturer Wrightbus, based in Ballymena, Northern Ireland.
Energy giants are also participating in this process, seeking to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.
BP plans to build the UK’s largest hydrogen project at Teesside. He claims that by 2030 this will lead to the creation of a fifth of the UK’s hydrogen target.
Centrica, owner of British Gas, is in talks with the government on a £ 650 million plan to retool a disused subsea gas storage facility off the northeast coast to store hydrogen.
And industrial titan Ineos, run by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, has agreed to invest £ 25m in a pure hydrogen fund called Hydrogen One Capital Growth, which is set to go public later this year.
Ultimately, the UK hopes that its shift to cleaner forms of energy will reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 180 million tonnes between 2023 and 2032 – the equivalent of all modern cars off the road for about two years.
But the government hopes its Green Industrial Revolution will also support up to 250,000 jobs across the UK by the end of the decade.
During this time, ministers believe that hydrogen will contribute to our daily life – in addition to being an essential component of the water we drink and the air we breathe.
As Boris Johnson himself put it: “You prepare breakfast using hydrogen energy before getting into your electric car, having previously recharged it overnight from batteries produced in the Midlands. The air around you is cleaner, and trucks and trains, ships and planes run on hydrogen or synthetic fuel. “
This is definitely a great prospect.
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