House debates

Monday, 2 December 2019

Private Members' Business

Renewable Energy: Hydrogen Industry

11:50 am

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) recognises that with research like that occurring at the CSIRO Advanced Research Facility in the electoral division of Ryan, Australia has the potential to be a world leader in hydrogen development, production and export which will create highly paid jobs and an industry potentially worth billions to the Australian economy;

(2) acknowledges that:

  (a) Australia's availability of land, high quality renewable energy resources and fossil energy resources, as well as our well-established reputation for undertaking large-scale resource projects, position Australia well for becoming a key exporter in a future global hydrogen market;

  (b) the combined direct and indirect benefits of establishing a hydrogen production and export industry in Australia under a medium demand scenario will deliver to the Australian economy $4.2 billion and over 7,100 jobs by 2040;

  (c) greater use of hydrogen is one way that Australia can contribute to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, if Australian produced hydrogen replaces traditional fossil fuel sources in end user nations; and

  (d) the National Hydrogen Strategy is to be released by the end of 2019, providing the Government with an opportunity to signal its long term policy and commitment to this industry;

(3) welcomes the Government's significant investment of more than $140 million into hydrogen projects, partnering with industry to develop tangible solutions that are important for bringing down energy prices for Australian households and small businesses; and

(4) encourages the Government to utilise the opportunity of the release of the National Hydrogen Strategy to confirm its long term commitment to the development of our hydrogen capability in order to encourage private investment in the sector, create jobs, create export capability and reduce global carbon emissions.

It is a pleasure to move this motion this morning in the chamber. It is a timely motion, because throughout the course of the year the Australian government has been working with all states and territories to develop a National Hydrogen Strategy, which has recently been released. We aim to build a clean, innovative, safe and competitive hydrogen industry by 2030 that benefits all Australians by giving them access to cleaner and more reliable energy. Indeed, today marks the launch of the national hydrogen RD&D road map. This report will explore the research, development and demonstration opportunities for Australia. I am passionate about this issue because my electorate of Ryan is home to the Pullenvale CSIRO facility in Brisbane, which is at the forefront of developing and researching the technology needed to make hydrogen power a reality for Australia.

Hydrogen represents a low-carbon renewable power source with the capacity to power homes, businesses and even heavy vehicles more efficiently than other renewable energy sources. Even more excitingly, scientists at CSIRO in my electorate are currently developing the technology needed to export Australia's hydrogen on a commercial scale. Already a world leader in per capita investment in clean energy, Australia can utilise hydrogen power as another opportunity to show its global leadership on reducing carbon emissions. Bloomberg found in 2018 that we have more than double the investment in clean energy of other countries like the UK, Germany and France.

The opportunities for the domestic market are exciting. By growing a strong domestic hydrogen industry, Australia will be able to see the practical benefits of hydrogen at home, with cheaper power bills and improved power. Hydrogen also has the potential to benefit Australian businesses across a wide range of sectors as diverse as transport, agriculture and generating electricity.

But it is in export where there is some real excitement and potential. Australia's availability of land and our well-established reputation for undertaking large-scale resource projects provide Australia with the capacity to become a key exporter in a future global hydrogen market. Exporting hydrogen to the international market has the potential to deliver $4.2 billion and over 7,000 jobs to the Australian economy by 2040. The Morrison government is backing the National Hydrogen Strategy with a $13.4 million commitment that will see the government take on a national coordination role for strategy implementation and take the lead on international negotiations to foster stronger trade relationships and develop an international certification scheme. Key energy export markets such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan are already looking for opportunities to diversify their energy sources, and the Morrison government is committed to making sure that Australian technology and Australian jobs are at the forefront of this.

We have significant investments to achieve this. The Morrison government will also make $370 million available through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to back new hydrogen products and projects. This includes $300 million of finance through a new Advancing Hydrogen Fund and $70 million through the ARENA fund to kickstart electrolyser projects.

As I said earlier, developing the export market is an opportunity to show leadership in reducing global carbon emissions. Developing our hydrogen industry will allow Australia to exercise leadership in global carbon reduction by exporting hydrogen power to other countries, reducing the carbon emissions in these end-user countries while simultaneously boosting the Australian economy.

To show the House just how important this technology could be, I'll give you an example. If one petajoule of diesel consumed in trucks globally was replaced by hydrogen, there would be a net reduction in emissions of 63,037 tonnes of carbon. In conclusion, a large domestic hydrogen industry will create numerous highly paid jobs and an industry worth potentially billions for the Australian economy. The government's National Hydrogen Strategy published last month outlines our long-term commitment to ensuring that this industry is fostered. Thank you to Minister Taylor for the work he is doing in this regard. Although I note Labor said they won't have a carbon policy for two years, I urge them to get on board and help us to achieve this in a bipartisan matter.

Photo of Sharon BirdSharon Bird (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and I reserve my right to speak.

Photo of Sharon BirdSharon Bird (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Higgins. The question is that the motion be agreed to. I give the call to the member for Shortland.

11:55 am

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm proud to rise and talk about the potential of hydrogen. But it is incredibly hypocritical of the government to move this motion. Let me repeat that: it is rank hypocrisy of the government to move this motion. Clearly, the member for Ryan is a new guy in this place; he is a bit of a bunny and he has been put up to move this motion not realising the sordid history of the coalition. The coalition haven't met a renewable energy technology they haven't wanted to kill. For example, 60 per cent of the world's solar photovoltaic cells are based on technology developed at the University of New South Wales. But we got zero jobs out of it because John Howard was opposed to renewable energy. The government had a policy of actually abolishing the Renewable Energy Target. Now they have the chutzpah—

Mr Burns interjecting

Sorry, I am corrected by the member for Macnamara, an expert on that matter—the chutzpah to claim the jobs and investment dollars from the RET, when they wanted to abolish it. Even in the member's remarks about all the investment ARENA and the CEFC want to put into hydrogen—they're two bodies that they want to abolish. Their election policy was to abolish ARENA and the CEFC. This is incredible hypocrisy from the government. It is just rank hypocrisy, and the people who are involved in this area—environmental activists, climate scientists and energy specialists—recognise it as such.

But I will agree on one thing: there is huge potential for hydrogen in this country. The Acil Allen report that the member was referring to before has a high-demand scenario that has the potential of a $10 billion a year export industry generating 16,000 jobs, if we can satisfy a decent share of the demand coming out of Japan and South Korea. Japan wants to make the 2020 Tokyo Olympics the 'Hydrogen Olympics', and Korea has made huge advances. For example, by 2035, all trucks and heavy vehicles in South Korea will have to be hydrogen powered. There is massive potential there. The member for Ryan failed to mention in his remarks that our potential customers have made it very clear that from 2030 onwards they will only accept clean hydrogen. That is a challenge. It is particularly a challenge for those opposite, given their love affair with fossil fuels.

They must be clean, but the real tragedy here is that government is moving way too slowly in this area. For example, investment in renewable energy is falling off the cliff. When the member opposite graduates from high school, he can look at some figures and realise that renewable energy is falling off a cliff because the RET has been satisfied. The RET has been satisfied, and the government has no policy to replace that. They have an energy policy vacuum. They are now up to 18 energy policies in six years. That's no surprise, given the Minister for Energy is too busy hiding from public scrutiny—given his performance with Clover Moore—to actually develop policies on hydrogen or anything else. I am proud, in contrast, that Labor took to the last election a hydrogen policy valued at $1.14 billion, which was overwhelmingly supported by the energy community. That policy would have driven a dramatic increase in that industry.

This is one part of Australia becoming a clean energy superpower. Our commitment to 50 per cent renewable energy in our hydrogen policy would have produced 87,000 jobs in the economy. We would have driven strong demand in other parts of the sector. For example, we will export 15.5 million tonnes of coking coal to satisfy our share of the steel that goes into wind farms around the world. We're also the second greatest producer of rare earths in the world. We've got the greatest reserves of iron and titanium, the second greatest of lithium and copper and the third greatest of silver. We are in a great position to take advantage of the transition to renewable energy that's happening all around the world through exports of our minerals, through manufacturing batteries here and through exporting electricity directly—either through high-voltage underwater DC cables to South-East Asia or through hydrogen to North Asia. These are all great policy opportunities. If only we had a government with a plan; if only we didn't have a government that denied the science of climate change; if only we had a government that hadn't had 18 energy policies in six years. So we need action. This government won't provide it because they're a bunch of fossils. (Time expired)

12:00 pm

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support the important private member's motion from the member for Ryan, my good friend—that Australia has the potential to be a world leader in hydrogen development, production and export, and that this will be a massive benefit to the Australian economy. The Morrison government's National Hydrogen Strategy, recently released by the Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, sets out a vision for a clean, innovative and competitive hydrogen strategy that will benefit all Australians and position us as a major global player. These past weeks warn us that Australia now more than ever faces climate related challenges. Climate change is real and affects us all. We are now at the pointy end of action. Australia is already a world leader in investment in clean energy technology and now has one of the highest rates of per capita investment in renewables in the world. Much of this has happened in the last two years.

All around the country, there is evidence that things are quickly moving in the right direction through government and private sector investment in renewables. There is now an inexorable global pivot to renewable energy and low carbon fuels. This means the long game of transitioning towards renewables in a carbon-neutral future is not just an environmental imperative for Australia; it is also an economic inevitability. Australia is in a great position to lead the world in climate change solutions. As a country with a large continent, we are graced with cheap land and plentiful sun and wind to develop our strength in renewable energy. But more than that, we also have strong markets, world class R&D and universities, global businesses, productive free trade and a smart and willing citizenship to develop new and alternative forms of technology such as hydrogen to lead us to a clean and green future.

Our well-established reputation for undertaking large-scale resource projects will position Australia well for becoming a key exporter in future global hydrogen markets. Such a market promises to contribute over $4 billion to our local economy, with thousands of new jobs in the short term. Recently, the first pilot of hydrogen-fuelled direct reduction of iron ore into steel occurred in Europe—a hugely anticipated innovation that will be crucial to weaning the world's dependence off fossil fuels. We need to embrace the challenge and get on board the innovation wave, and invest in the development of energy and emission reduction products, new technologies to capture, store and transmit renewables such as hydrogen, and safer operating environments for carbon-neutral energy sources.

The federal government's investment is playing a key role in ensuring the potential of the hydrogen sector is realised. Along with $13.4 million already provided to implement the recently released National Hydrogen Strategy, the government will reserve $370 million from existing Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA—the Australian Renewable Energy Agency—funding to back new hydrogen projects. This package takes the government's commitment to the hydrogen industry to over $500 million since 2015, boosting the sector and helping our nation realise its high potential for hydrogen production.

The release of the National Hydrogen Strategy provides us with an opportunity to confirm our long-term commitment to the development of our hydrogen capability in order to encourage investment, the creation of jobs and the generation of export capability. This emerging pipeline of skills, training and business start-ups, coupled with changes in consumer behaviour and government investment, results in significant opportunities for us as a country. We will only move forward as a country if we bring both the community and the whole economy with us. I thank the member for Ryan for moving this motion.

12:05 pm

Photo of Helen HainesHelen Haines (Indi, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Ryan for this motion. Hydrogen could play an important role in the global transition to clean, renewable energy, and I welcome the chance to speak about this transition today. With the release of the National Hydrogen Strategy and the announcement of a new fund for hydrogen projects, there are lots of questions remaining about how we make the most of the opportunities that we have.

It's critically important, though, that our developing hydrogen industry doesn't rely on burning more gas and coal. It makes no sense to be burning brown coal to create hydrogen to export overseas. But that's what's happening in a project in the La Trobe Valley, with the Commonwealth giving $50 million to burn 160 tonnes of brown coal to create three tonnes of hydrogen. Thirty times more carbon dioxide than hydrogen will be produced and then shipped overseas. In doing so, we commit to capital infrastructure that cannot easily be converted to renewable-powered electrolysis. Rightly, people are concerned that these investments will lock us in to continual use of fossil fuels when we have better alternatives becoming available.

Across the world, there are projects demonstrating that green hydrogen can be used to sustainably power industry, homes and vehicles. If Australia truly is to be a leader in hydrogen production, we need to invest in renewable energy powered electrolysis. Yet, to date, there has not been enough investment in this sector. I welcome the new investment into hydrogen projects but lend my voice to those who say that green hydrogen projects must be the priority. If we get this right, our renewable energy sector will continue to drive down the cost of electrolysis and create cheaper hydrogen over time.

Luckily, we have a huge opportunity right now to invest in renewable energy that can be used to power our developing hydrogen industry and meet our own current domestic needs. I'm proud to be representing multiple communities across Indi who are leading the way on renewable energy projects. A mix of large-scale renewable energy farms, community projects and better storage are all part of Indi's energy future. We know this because over years our community and neighbouring regions have worked together on the Hume Renewable Energy Roadmap.

The Hume Renewable Energy Roadmap has recently shown the huge capacity of towns in our region. We produce 1.5 million tonnes of biomass every year that could generate electricity with a carbon-neutral biogas burner. The Barnawartha biodiesel plant will produce 50 million litres of biodiesel a year from tallow and vegetable oil. Across Indi people are installing rooftop solar and solar hot water, making the most of the clear sunny days. The Euroa Environment Group is behind a $6 million grassroots project to install 589 kilowatts of new solar photovoltaic panels and up to 400 kilowatts of new batteries. The town of Yackandandah is working to be totally renewable by 2022, with a minigrid supported by these community groups and the state government that will reduce energy prices and emissions.

We have several large-scale solar projects across the region, including the new solar farm in Winton, near Benalla, which is soon to be providing energy to 50,000 homes. There are other sites in the region that have great potential for solar and could be connected to existing transmission lines. Pumped hydro could also work for our communities living on Indi's many rivers and mountains. Across north-east Victoria, a community energy retailer, Indigo Power, has been hard at work drawing together the skills and experience to support energy transition. We have leaders in Euroa, Benalla, Alexandra, Mansfield, Beechworth, Yackandandah, Wangaratta, Wodonga, Tallangatta, Rutherglen and Bright.

So I want to encourage the development of green hydrogen as part of Australia's and Indi's renewable energy transition. This opportunity to power our communities with this clean and renewable energy resource is one that must take us to the future and not lock us in the past.

Photo of Sharon BirdSharon Bird (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.