Analysis and Commentary

New SA government aims for hydrogen leadership

Analysis and Commentary

By Peter Roberts

Having previously led the world with the installation of the world-first Hornsdale big battery, the incoming Labor government in South Australia plans to do the same with the construction of a state-owned hydrogen electrolyser and green hydrogen-fired power station at Whyalla.

Costed at $593 million, the 250 MWe electrolysers, 200MW power station and 3,600 tonne hydrogen storage facility aim to be a game changer for both the national electricity market and heavy industry in the northern Spencer Gulf region.

The project complements $18 billion in green hydrogen proposals for nearby Port Bonython already being studied by the state, with a new transmission line already under construction from the solar and wind-rich area to New South Wales and Victoria.

Lining up at Port Bonython are locals Fortescue Future Industries, Origin Energy, Santos and H2U, and international companies such as Eneos, Chiyoda, Mitsubishi and AMP Energy.

Together the mooted investments:

  • Provide a way of soaking up excess solar power generated during the day to produce hydrogen, minimising the threat of household solar being cut off from the grid
  • Create a new source of green firming power to strengthen the national electricity market
  • Support plans by Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty Steel, Nyrstar’s Port Pirie lead smelter and BHP and Oz Minerals copper operations to go green
  • And underpin hydrogen exports and new industrial uses, perhaps in value-adding the state’s copper production.

Introducing the Hydrogen Jobs Plan incoming Premier Peter Malinauskas said his aim was to capture a third of jobs created by green hydrogen to 2030 for SA.

He said: “(Previously) the battery fast tracked the development of grid scale storage in Australia and throughout the world.

“This is our next big leap forward.”

The Liberal government in SA continued and expanded the green energy focus it inherited from Labor when it came to power four years ago, investing $67 million including to extend the export wharf at Port Bonython.

However it legislated to allow energy providers to switch off home solar panels when production was higher than demand. The local electricity distributor SA Power Networks has also floated the idea of imposing a charge to households who export energy from rooftop solar panels to the grid.

The state has also seemed eclipsed in recent years in its green hydrogen ambitions by Western Australia and Queensland, and more lately New South Wales.

Whether a new hydrogen push SA can return the state to the levels of industry creation seen in the 1960s and 1970s is a moot point.

But with the state already getting 64 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources, it looks like it will be the first jurisdiction in Australia and the world to get to 100 – and that will be in only a few short years.

Picture: ALPSA

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