$50m hydrogen, low-emissions steel R&D funding round opens

Brandon How

Grants of up to $5 million are now available for research and development projects in renewable hydrogen and low emissions iron and steel through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

With a total pool of $50 million available, the programs seek to support the development of “core research into early-stage commercialisation activities”, according to the program guidelines.

The first $25 million funding round, announced on Thursday, targets research on hydrogen production, storage, and distribution. The production stream will also support research in producing hydrogen derivatives such as ammonia, while the storage and distribution stream will consider solutions for both the domestic and export industries.

The remaining $25 million in funding is for an ‘Iron and Steel round’ for emissions reduction along the steel value chain. Globally, the iron and steel industries account for seven per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to ARENA.

The opening of the grants comes a week after ARENA announced an expressions of interest of process for $120 million worth of community batteries as a part of the federal government’s Community Batteries for Household Solar Program.

Climate Change and Energy minister Chris Bowen said the “world’s climate emergency is Australia’s job opportunity, and the best way to seize that opportunity is by investing in Australian research and technology and deploying it”.

“Australia can and should become a renewable energy superpower, continuing our role as a reliable energy exporter around the world. Developing technology to make, store and use hydrogen is essential, including to tap our potential as a competitive exporter of energy-intensive green metals,” he said.

ARENA chief executive Chris Faris said that Australia has a “proud history at the forefront of technological innovation to support our industrial base” and that the projects targeted across the funding rounds would be “critical to Australia’s net-zero economy”.

Australian energy and climate change ministers agreed to review the national hydrogen strategy in February. Former chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel has suggested a refreshed strategy should focus on increasing domestic hydrogen use as a feedstock to value-added products, such as jet fuel and green iron and steel.

Australia’s pipeline of hydrogen investments had a higher total cost than any other resources and energy development pipeline, valued at around $230 billion to $300 billion of potential investment, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Launching the Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment, and Water’s State of Hydrogen Report 2022 on Thursday, Mr Bowen said the hydrogen economy by 2050 “generate $50 billion in additional GDP and create more than 16,000 jobs in regional Australia”.

A report by the Australian Industry Energy Transitions Initiative argues that $20 billion must be invested in abatement technology and the national energy system annually by 2050 to decarbonise the iron and steel, aluminium, other metals, chemicals, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) industries.

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