Response 315325112

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Simon Whitehouse

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What do you think are the two or three most significant recent developments in hydrogen?
* Commercialisation of vehicles - achieving close to or actual practical parity - price and range in particular - with conventionally powered cars and buses * Increase in commercial activity in all aspects of H2 and FCs in Asia and Europe. Especially China and France where multiple large companies are entering market places * increasing global attention to transport - particularly public transport options of bus, train and ferry, but also large, long distance freight - as the area where the most significant and early benefits can be achieved. * Pro-active policy developments by Governments to facilitate innovation in clean energy so that a truly level playing field is established with recognition of employment, innovation, IP and energy self sufficiency benefits of H2 to the local, regional, and national economies and environment. *SADLY AND CONVERSELY - the focus in Australia on simply producing (mostly from fossil fuel bases) and exporting H2 and not utilising it locally.
What are the most important safety issues to consider in producing, handling and using hydrogen in Australia?
H2 safety is not especially more complex than safety of petrol, diesel or NG. It is just different and needs to be recognised as such. There are aspects which are more problematic than current fuels and energy systems, and aspects that are less problematic. The major issue is to recognise the particular attributes, establish the appropriate standards and regulations, and then implement regimes to ensure they are adhered to. H2 has been handled safely in Australia in various settings for many years, and similarly in other parts of the world. Experience with the newer uses in Europe, Asia and America have demonstrated that it can be handled safely with no particular dramas at all. There are considerable data bases on H2 safety in these newer applications available in Europe.
What environmental and community impacts should we examine?
* The major benefits from H2 are the potential for it to be used LOCALLY within Australia. The current emphasis on production and export to Japan or elsewhere does little for the local environment or community. The employment is minimal with little skilled employment or generation of IP or innovation. It can also be argued that the environmental impact is negative with most H2 being produced by increased use of fossil fuels, and amazingly brown coal!! * H2 can be produced locally and flexibly which gives it very wide applicability. There are so many options for different feedstocks, and production and distribution energies and the system can be tailored to the local economies and industries. This means that the benefits can be optimised for the local community, environment and economy. * In parallel to this is the potential for local employment - both skilled and semi-skilled. Allied to this would be the development of new and innovative industries for benefit to the local economies as well as export of the IP globally
How can Australia influence and accelerate the development of a global market for hydrogen?
* The production and export of H2 certainly can accelerate the global market for H2. I am aware of significant early interest in Australian H2 from several different areas of the world. Availability of H2 in those markets is certainly ONE of the essential levers for development *HOWEVER - most markets globally are very concerned about the LCA impacts of the production, supply and distribution of any H2. The drive to CERTIFIED GREEN H2 is increasing at both enterprise, industry and Governmental level. Many NGOs are prepared to lobby AGAINST H2 unless they can be satisfied that it has been produced renewably. This is a huge challenge for our NG producers and, I would hazard a guess, impossible for brown coal origins. * My experience in consulting with NGOs in Europe, including WWF, Greenpeace, as well as nationally based groups, suggests that their patience is running out with promises with H2 being produced from fossil fuel as an interim arrangement on the path to fully renewable H2. Similarly with some elements of Government
What are the top two or three factors required for a successful hydrogen export industry?
* In the VERY SHORT TERM it will be availability into the target market and at an appropriate price. However these are almost certainly only an immediate and very short term criteria. * The longer term success will be determined by the LCA GREEN credentials first and foremost. Price will come after that. However if the environmental credentials and requirements are not met, price will not be relevant. This is already emerging in some European markets and is forecast to grow.
What are the top two or three opportunities for the use of clean hydrogen in Australia?
* Transport, transport, transport Transport emissions are the second largest contributor to Australia's greenhouse impacts (leaving aside the debate over land clearing and use). This is the area where the most immediate and useful benefits can be made for Australia. Developments in Europe, Asia and North America continue to demonstrate the availability of practical options for bus, car and truck transport. Practical in terms of performance and parity with current alternatives, and increasingly with price. For example public transport buses are now being purchased in Europe for less than 650,000 Euros. It is anticipated that the entry of Yutong and BYD into that market will reduce this again. We have major multi-nationals such as Michelin and Alstom pushing into the commercial market in a big way, both in their traditional areas as well as diversifying. For example Alstom, traditionally a train OEM is now producing a fuel cell bus. This is alongside an increasingly diverse range of smaller companies which are pushing the older, larger, more established OEMs to move faster. The potential for benefits is now. Australia just needs to consider carefully and MOVE>
What are the main barriers to the use of hydrogen in Australia?
I see three main current barriers 1 - Government policy. This has at least three elements. a- The first is the Commonwealth Government lack of acknowledgement and addressing climate change. This is exacerbated by their push for coal. b - The second element is the inappropriate, insane and untrue focus on a "level playing field" and being "technology neutral". These mantras are frequently echoed in the public service. The role of Government is to set policies which automatically establish a non-level playing field. If a Government requires vaccination that tilts the 'playing field' that way. Similarly if a Government requires renewables, or C offsets, or coal fired power stations, that sets the policy and industry scene in that direction. Governments repeatedly are NOT technology neutral and have the responsibility to steer in directions they determine. c - the third element, and a consequence of the second element, is the absence of Government policy to encourage or even require certain outcomes, In Europe this is not the case where, for example, public utilities are required to factor into their purchase decisions impacts on the environment. In the case of bus acquisition, there is a required formula for calculating the costs of impacts from different fuels. This automatically advantages zero emission options. 2. The powerful industry and labour lobbies from from existing industries and incumbent fuels is a major barrier. The best and most recent example is the 48 hour reversal of the WA EPA proposals for emission offsets for large emitters. The industry lobbied the Government and made a major public play for jobs and $$. Government and the EPA reversed direction. The irony is that I know that several of those major industries are pushing strongly into renewables. They just want to do it how and when they want. The absence of pro-active Government
What are some examples where a strategic national approach could lower costs and shorten timelines for developing a clean hydrogen industry?
The activities of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH-JU) and the German NOW / NIP programmes are excellent examples which have been extremely successful. There are similar initiatives and organisations In UK and in France. Their major characteristics are * Clear and consistent and long term Government policy direction. This has related to and linked together climate, environment, industry, employment, innovation. In the EU context the SET Plans and Important Projects of Common European Interest. * Cooperation, collaboration with, and co-option of industry. This has been in the policy and financial context and has resulted in partnerships which have shared visions and actions and responsibities and accountabilities.
What are Australia’s key technology, regulatory and business strengths and weaknesses in the development of a clean hydrogen industry?
STRENGTHS * Australia has a strong regulatory environment which is an essential precondition for any innovation. * A strong history of and expertise in gas handling * A 'can do and solution oriented' approach to development and innovation. *Basic resources for a clean and renewable basis - solar, and wind in abundance WEAKNESSES *Australia has a prevailing economic rationalist approach which sadly focuses on immediate, narrow, financial issues, instead of broad economic considerations and the medium and long term. The latter would include and cost, or proxy, human health (morbidity and mortality), species impact, climate etc *Focus from major political and industry actors on short term, direct financial returns and insufficient attention paid to the longer term economic benefits locally, regionally, nationally and globally. In the Australian context this means lack of attention to developing and capitalising IP, industry development and broader environmental impacts *Apparent unwillingness of Government preparedness to invest and facilitate, and pro-actively lead public opinion * Apparent willingness to give way easily to incumbent energies and technologies, particularly fossil fuel energies. While companies like SHELL announce they want to be the world's largest supplier of renewable energy, they lobby Governments and public opinion aggressively and intensively to maximise their returns from their existing fossil reserves. Delay = profit for the incumbents but lack of options for the community.
What workforce skills will need to be developed to support a growing clean hydrogen industry?
The skills needed across the entire supply chain are not particularly unique or difficult to provide. * H2 production from fossil inputs - regularly done in large quantities around Australia, especially in the oil industry * H2 transport, distribution and utilisation in large quantities - regularly done around Australia - food, chemical, medical industries. * H2 preparation, distrubution and utilisation for vehicles - H2 cleaning (PSA and other techniques) regularly done in Australia. Truck distribution of H2 also done regularly. * H2 dispensing at refuelling stations will need different skills for the manufacture and maintenance of the equipment * H2 renewable production mostly through electrolysis. Not particularly complex - designs and suppliers available - see NewBusFuel * There are no new or extra-ordinary skills required for any of the above. Also the number of workers required is not large. There are existing engineers and technical designers and infrastructure suppliers both within Australia and internationally to meet demand. * H2 vehicle maintenance is probably the area that will require most workforce change and training and relatively long lead times. High voltage electrical credentials, H2 certification, software BoP capabilities. These will need to be routine for vehicle maintenance staff. Short term 'fixes' can be achieved by recruiting internationally and providing add on training to some existing staff. In the long term and for the broad industry this will require changes to apprentice training - syllabus development, lecturer retraining and etc * Similar but not as complex retraining may be required for other infrastructure workers.
What areas in hydrogen research, development and deployment need attention in Australia? Where are the gaps in our knowledge?
The major gaps in our knowledge are the developments that have been occurring and continue to occur internationally. Policy, technology, costings, performance, Life Cycle Assessments. It is depressing to learn the plethora of plans and strategies being developed with little apparent input and learning from other parts of the world. This issue is not new. The issues of energy security, energy independence, climate change, environmental damage, human health damage are all well known and long standing. On the other hand the H2 industry development as part of a clean energy future is also not new. It has been driving ahead around the world for decades. However in Australia there has been, and appears to be still, very limited connections between the two arms of the issue, and little willingness to appreciate and learn from the activities. Opportunities to share information at the highest level have been negotiated on a Government to Government basis, but have not been implemented. There seems to be a drive and passion to re-invent the wheel in Australia, perhaps driven by the "we are different" mantra, or perhaps by a lack of awareness. Driving this initiative forward can be greatly enhanced through formation and energetic participation in partnerships - with Governments, industry, NGOs in Europe, Asia and North America. But it is essential that these are two way partnerships and not perceived or actually one way draining towards Australia. It is reasonable to assume that the partners would be willing to reactive their sharing arrangements. This is not a situation that needs 'fact finding' Parliamentary or Ministerial or Public Servant missions. These have been done to death with, in my direct observation, some personnel not being at all interested in learning. Reports and, more importantly action, have been limited
Do you have any other comments or submissions to this process?
The major requirement is for Government(s) in Australia to lead. To set policies which pro-actively set the scene and provide policy and economic certainty for industry and the community into the future. This needs to be done now in collaboration with industry. Governments announce their direction and then invite industry to work with them to achieve it and not allow industry to oppose, change or slow the target achievement.