Tasmania should take a leading role in encouraging the uptake of hydrogen-powered electric vehicles, according to a company that works with Australian governments to develop renewable energy projects.
The state government has developed a draft Tasmanian Renewable Hydrogen Action Plan, envisioning a future in which the state takes the lead in ushering in an era of green hydrogen production in Australia.
Tasmania is believed to be ideally placed to develop a renewable hydrogen industry, with analysis suggesting production costs could be 10 to 15 per cent less than they would be for other Australian power grids.
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Renewable energy can be used to produce green hydrogen through a process of electrolysing water.
In a submission to the government's draft action plan, Countrywide Renewable Energy, a company that works with local and state governments to develop renewable projects, recommended the Tasmanian government bolster its plan by encouraging government agencies and businesses to use fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) in their vehicle fleets.
CRE recently proposed a $160 million solar or wind-powered hydrogen production plant for Heywood in Western Victoria, with support from CSIRO, Deakin University and other organisations.
"A collaborative approach is required that brings together the Tasmanian government, its [government business enterprises], businesses and their allies, CRE and other green hydrogen developers and producers," CRE managing director Geoffrey Drucker said in response to the draft action plan.
Among CRE's recommendations are that the government:
- Direct Metro Tasmania to purchase FCEV buses and stop contracting new diesel vehicles pending the evaluation of the performance of the FCEVs;
- Require government agencies to commit to lease or purchase FCEV passenger cars to "demonstrate commitment to decarbonising Tasmania"; and
- Provide incentives to promote FCEV uptake, such as registration concessions.
FCEVs don't require charging like battery electric vehicles (BEVs); instead, they can be topped up at refuelling stations. However, hydrogen refuelling infrastructure is extremely limited in Australia.
One of the proposals contained in the government's draft action plan is centred on exploring opportunities to trial FCEVs within the government fleet "to gain firsthand experience of the technology and act as a potential catalyst for broader uptake across the private sector".
Tesla chief executive Elon Musk, whose company is at the cutting edge of BEV production, has described hydrogen fuel cells as "mind-bogglingly stupid".
But, in its submission to the draft action plan, a group of senior academics at the University of Tasmania says if FCEVs become competitive with BEVs, global demand for green hydrogen could skyrocket.
"There is at least a potential that [Tasmania] could control its own transportation fuel sector, with important consequences for our economic independence and budget bottom line," the group said.
Energy Minister Guy Barnett said the government was open to a range of measures that would support a low emissions future.
"We consider an electric and hydrogen-powered transport industry part of that future," he said.
Mr Barnett said the government would be releasing the final renewable hydrogen action plan in the coming months.