Australia’s clean energy plan that leaves Boris green with envy
Australia has some natural advantages over the UK when it comes to clean energy production.
It is a little easier to cover large swathes of the outback with solar panels and wind farms than the green, rolling fields of England.
This is one of the reasons why our cousins in the Antipodes are scrambling for pole position in the global race to produce hydrogen in industrial quantities.
Green energy: Australia plans to build the world’s largest renewable energy hub in the western outback, which will cost £ 54 billion and cover an area of nearly 6,000 square miles
Countries around the world are investing in hydrogen as they scramble to reduce carbon emissions. But they’re also keen not to miss out on what experts say is destined to grow into a multi-billion dollar industry.
Still heavily dependent on coal and natural gas, Australia has been widely condemned for refusing to commit to becoming “carbon neutral” by 2050.
But the country’s ambitions to produce clean-burning hydrogen – the most abundant molecule on earth – are on a truly epic scale.
Plans have been filed to build the world’s largest renewable energy hub in Western Australia’s outback, covering an area ten times the size of Greater London.
Costing up to £ 54 billion and covering nearly 6,000 square miles, it would produce up to 50 gigawatts of wind and solar power, doubling the production capacity of the entire country.
But that energy would only be used to power machines called electrolysers, which circulate electric currents in water to split each molecule of H20 into two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. The advantage of this energy-intensive process, of course, is that no carbon emissions are produced.
It is hoped that large amounts of hydrogen can be sold in Australia and abroad to power a new generation of green buses, cars and ships – and to heat homes.
The project is not expected to be operational until 2030, even if it receives the green light from the government of Western Australia. But its breathtaking reach may make Boris Johnson – a man known for his love of daring infrastructure projects – a little jealous.
The government has its own more modest ambitions to harness the power of hydrogen in industrial centers in northern Britain – from Teesside to the Humber.
He is set to release his hydrogen strategy, outlining plans to launch billions of pounds of private investment in hydrogen production. This is part of its so-called Green Industrial Revolution, which also includes investments in offshore wind, nuclear power, and zero-emission vehicles.
Speaking to Red Wall voters across the North, the Prime Minister predicted that Teesside, Merseyside and Mansfield could all benefit from a boom in green jobs as they become major hubs of hydrogen production.
Barnaby Wharton, director of future power systems at pressure group Renewable UK, said: “The exciting thing about hydrogen is that we can produce it from renewable electricity – so it’s really zero carbon. “
Industrial titan Ineos, led by Sir Jim Ratcliffe (pictured), to invest £ 25million in a clean hydrogen fund called Hydrogen One Capital Growth which intends to go public this year
Several projects are already underway in the north of England and Scotland and have received government funding. Among them is Hynet, which aims to become the UK’s leading net zero industrial zone by investing in a hydrogen production plant near Chester.
The project, backed by a consortium of investors including British chemicals giant Johnson Matthey and India’s Essar Oil, plans to generate hydrogen using natural gas, capturing and storing carbon dioxide.
In the Humber area, among the former industrial towns of Hull, Scunthorpe and Grimsby, another hydrogen production project is underway.
A consortium of investors have come together to develop massive electrolysers, using energy from the nearby Hornsea One offshore wind farm to generate carbon-free hydrogen.
The Prime Minister also pledged to deliver 4,000 British-built hydrogen or electric buses, funding bus maker Wrightbus, based in Ballymena, Northern Ireland.
Energy giants are also stepping into action as they seek to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.
BP plans to build the UK’s largest hydrogen project at Teesside. This, he claims, would generate one-fifth of the UK’s hydrogen target by 2030.
Centrica, owner of British Gas, is in talks with the government over a £ 650million plan to convert a disused underwater gas storage site off the northeast coast to store gas. ‘hydrogen.
And industrial titan Ineos, led by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, has agreed to invest £ 25million in a clean hydrogen fund called Hydrogen One Capital Growth which intends to go public later this year.
Ultimately, Britain hopes its shift to cleaner forms of energy will cut 180 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions between 2023 and 2032 – the equivalent of removing all cars of today’s roads 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.
Meanwhile, ministers believe hydrogen will help fuel our daily lives – beyond being a crucial part of the water we drink and the air we breathe.
As Boris Johnson himself puts it: “You make your breakfast on hydrogen before getting into your electric car, after charging it overnight from batteries made in the Midlands. The air around you is cleaner, and trucks, trains, ships and planes run on hydrogen or synthetic fuel. ‘
It is certainly a compelling prospect.
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