Part 1: The Hydrogen Economy

As the viability of traditional fossil fuels are being increasingly questioned in a warming world, state, federal and territory ministers are meeting on Friday the 22nd of November to discuss the future of energy policy in Australia, and alternative projects such as the billionaire-funded Sun Cable solar project are rapidly gaining traction. Amidst news proliferating on climate change, economics and renewable energy, the terms ‘hydrogen energy’ or ‘hydrogen economy’ are bandied about every which way, so you’d be forgiven for wondering: what is the hydrogen economy and why is it that everybody - including big fossil fuel companies - suddenly seems to be talking about it?

Over the coming weeks, Energy Justice Victoria will offer clear explainers on three key issues relevant to this ongoing discussion.

  1. What is the hydrogen economy?
  2. What is the hydrogen energy supply chain and how does it relate to the fossil fuel industry in Victoria?
  3. What are the environmental and climate impacts of fossil fuel hydrogen and what are the alternatives?

Today, we tackle the first of these questions and explain what exactly the hydrogen economy is.

Hydrogen is considered internationally to be the next big thing in clean fuels. Currently, hydrogen is primarily used to refine fuels and as a component of fertiliser, however it has a lot of potential beyond this.

Hydrogen can be used for both fuel and energy storage. As a fuel, hydrogen has the potential for use in industries that are otherwise hard to decarbonise such as marine transport. Additionally, as a fuel for energy production and as a means of energy storage, hydrogen can be integrated into a renewables-based grid to work with other technologies like solar and wind that are already being rolled out across Victoria and Australia.

With countries internationally moving to decarbonise their economies due to the rising impacts of the climate crisis, as well as the increasing health and economic costs of fossil fuels, more and more attention is being paid to hydrogen.

How do you make hydrogen?

Hydrogen can be created using multiple methods.

Hydrogen can be made using water and electricity in a process called electrolysis, whereby the only byproduct is oxygen (which can be processed and used by other industries). When this electricity is sourced from renewable energy, hydrogen is a clean, zero-carbon fuel.

Alternatively, hydrogen can be produced using fossil fuels, such as gas or coal. Electricity is used to extract the hydrogen from the gas or coal, and this results in a lot of carbon waste. 

This will be the topic of our blog next week but suffice to say for now that it is decidedly not a climate solution.

So what is the hydrogen economy?

When you hear billionaire investors, different levels of government and scientists discuss the ‘hydrogen economy’ with ever increasing interest, all they mean by the term is the system in which hydrogen fuels for fuel and energy are created. As it stands, these can be made cleanly from renewables, or destructively from fossil fuels.

Join us for our next update as we discuss the next issue on our list: What is the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (the HESC) and how does it relate to the fossil fuel industry in Victoria?

Until then, you can make a submission to the Victorian Government (more infor below), or follow or get involved with Energy Justice Victoria’s work opposing new fossil fuels and campaigning for a just transition with communities across Victoria.

ACT NOW:

  • Right now the Victorian Government is accepting submissions on the Victorian Hydrogen Investment Program, asking the community to “help [them] identify the emerging green hydrogen sector’s primary drivers, barriers and opportunities to inform an Industry Development Plan for green hydrogen.”              
    We encourage people to make a submission to let the government know that the community wants Victoria to benefit from the upcoming hydrogen economy, and oppose fossil fuels being allowed to co-opt this clean energy opportunity.
    Have your say here

  • Make a tax-deductible donation here to support a just transition and stop new fossil fuels in Victoria