By Mikeli Walker & Rodger Liang

Regional Australia will become a “powerhouse” exporter of hydrogen, with the federal budget setting aside billions of dollars to support an energy infrastructure transformation.

Major hydrogen producers Northern Territory and NSW Hunter region will receive over $3 billion to transform energy infrastructure into low emissions technologies but it remains unclear how or when the fuel source will begin to replace fossil fuels in Australia. 

The pre-election budget currently has no new direct funding for renewable energy generation projects, making the sector one of the bigger losers of this year’s budget.

Graduate Engineer and Project Officer Alexander Nassar said, “there are better ways to do it”, when it comes to hitting Australia’s net-zero targets, with hydrogen hubs insufficient to “power Australia”.

Nassar says that while Hydrogen infrastructure is a good start it will do little to help reach sustainability targets. 

“It’s not going to help us reach the net-zero targets that Australia has set. It can be an additional income source for exports, but it won’t run the country,” says Nassar. “One of our biggest issues is that the [power] grid wasn’t really built for the system. It’s an exercise in upgrading not just renewable energy infrastructure.”

Shannon Ballard, an experienced energy engineer, believes that hydrogen is a realistic option as an energy export. Despite its advantages, it comes with, “its own technical difficulties” specifically regarding transport and storage.

Both Mr Nassar and Mr Ballard stressed the importance of making pre-existing infrastructure compatible with future technologies.  Ballard states that it’s not about creating more renewable energy but updating our existing grid for use. 

”You can’t just build the solar and the wind towers, you need the batteries and the [power] grid to be able to take it,” says Ballard.

Efforts toward the net-zero targets are “on schedule” for 2050 with a 35% reduction projected by 2030.

Mr Ballard believes moving toward Battery Electric Vehicles (EVs) is the next step along with hydrogen for heavy vehicle transport as it will reduce overall emissions and petrol usage.

Main photo by Unsplash Lincoln Electric Systems, Lincoln Nebraska