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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has awarded $1.28 million to Australian Gas Networks Limited (AGN) to establish the Australian Hydrogen Centre (AHC) which will explore the feasibility of blending hydrogen into natural gas networks.

The AHC also received funding support from South Australia’s Department for Energy and Mining, and Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. 

Other AHC founding members include AusNet Services, ENGIE and Neoen.

The AHC will develop feasibility studies to inject up to 10 per cent renewable hydrogen into the gas distribution network of selected regional towns in South Australia and Victoria.

Building on the feasibility studies for regional towns, the AHC will also develop feasibility studies to inject up to 10 per cent renewable hydrogen into the gas distribution networks of South Australia and Victoria and develop a pathway to make the transition to 100 per cent hydrogen networks.

In addition, the AHC will publish knowledge sharing reports to externalise key insights and data from the operations of AGN’s flagship project, Hydrogen Park South Australia (HyP SA), which will be operational by mid-2020. 

HyP SA will be Australia’s largest renewable hydrogen production facility where renewable hydrogen will be produced and blended into the gas distribution network in Mitchell Park, Adelaide. Approximately 710 households in Mitchell Park will be receiving a blended five per cent renewable gas – a combination of natural gas and renewable hydrogen.

The ARENA grant will cover approximately 31 per cent of the total estimated cost of $4.15 million to complete the work program of the AHC by January 2022.

ARENA, Chief Executive Officer, Darren Miller said, “The natural gas network could be a key piece of infrastructure to support decarbonisation of the national energy system. The network has the potential to be used for the long-term storage of renewably produced hydrogen and limit the need for electrification alternatives, which can be costly.

“The development of a local hydrogen sector will underpin the investment in technology and skills to support the long-term export opportunity. These studies will go a long way to identifying the possibility of using and storing hydrogen in local gas networks.”

AGN Chief Executive Officer, Ben Wilson, said AGN’s strategy aims to deliver substantial, measurable and world-leading outcomes in minimising the current and future carbon footprint across the whole of Australia’s national gas distribution business.

“This public licence also requires total transparency so the studies will provide guidance as to both the best solution to deliver renewable gas into our networks while ensuring full engagement with all stakeholders and consumers about this step-change in Australian energy delivery,” Mr Wilson said. 

The South Australian Minister for Energy and Mining, Dan van Holst Pellekaan, said the Australian Hydrogen Centre is an exciting renewable energy initiative that fits perfectly with the government’s plan to deliver more reliable, more affordable and cleaner energy for the state.

“Considering South Australia’s enormous wind and solar resources, we have significant natural advantages that can be leveraged to produce, consume and export 100 per cent green hydrogen,” Mr van Holst Pellekaan said.

“This project builds on the South Australian Government’s $4.9 million investment in Hydrogen Park SA that will see hydrogen blended with natural gas and delivered to 710 homes in the local community.”

Energy Networks Australia welcomed the additional funding for hydrogen projects. Energy Networks Australia CEO, Andrew Dillon, said the broad support for the AHC reinforced the role of energy networks in enabling a sustainable energy future.

“Hydrogen will play an important role in the energy transition as we adopt new technologies such as renewable generation to reduce emissions from the energy sector,” Mr Dillon said.

“The AHC will deliver a practical pathway for blending hydrogen into networks and will directly contribute to the delivery of the National Hydrogen Strategy.

“Flexible hydrogen production creates additional value streams for excess renewable electricity and can also be used to manage peak demand.

“Establishing a strong, domestic hydrogen industry will drive the development of Australia’s hydrogen export industry.”

Australian Hydrogen Council Chief Executive Officer, Dr Fiona Simon, said the funding demonstrates the Government’s commitment to developing a clean, competitive hydrogen industry.

“The AHC will help to develop the skills and expertise necessary to integrate hydrogen into existing gas networks and transition to low-carbon energy,” Ms Simon said. 

 “We know that hydrogen is crucial for Australia’s future energy and storage mix. It can fuel Australian vehicles, heat Australian homes and power Australian industry. It can also help solve the storage puzzle for our renewable-rich nation by storing excess generated electricity then feeding it back into our grid during periods of high demand or low production. 

“We must continue to work together across government and industry to accelerate the progress from current hydrogen on demonstration scale to hydrogen on commercial scale.

“This will require continued collaboration, development and investment to secure hydrogen’s place in Australia’s diverse energy mix and progress the technologies necessary to get the industry to scale.”

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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