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Australia's Pathway To Becoming An Energy Superpower

There's been a lot of hype about the most recent resurgence of hydrogen fuel.

Australia already has vast renewable energy production capabilities and if this is combined with hydrogen manufacturing, we could see massive export revenue.

Basically, Australia could become a world leader in environmentally friendly fuel production and it could make us a tonne of cash.

And it's beginning to take off.

At the end of May the Queensland state government signed an agreement with a Japanese hydrogen company which will see the state launch into the worldwide energy industry.

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Solar Power
Australia has a huge renewable energy production capability. Photo: Getty Images.

Japan already imports 85 percent of its energy and South Korea has finalised a roadmap for how they could use hydrogen fuel, including the implementation of 80,000 hydrogen-powered cars by 2022.

Both nations are major Queensland trading partners and with Australia's already large capacity for renewable energy production, we could become a major global energy supplier within a few years..

"We have a massive opportunity given Australia's huge renewable energy source to produce hydrogen from solar and wind ...and export it to the rest of the world," Director of the Energy Change Institute at the Australian National University Professor Ken Baldwin said.

"At the moment is it receiving a bit of a resurgence indeed we have an opportunity now because there is an increasing demand and interest from countries around hydrogen to make this an opportunity for Australia exports."

What Is So Good About Hydrogen Fuel?

Hydrogen is extremely versatile. It can be made from a number of different sources and can be used for many everyday things.

These include powering a car or a home. It could also be used to power large industry and can be exported to other parts of Asia.

Hydrogen fuel is widely manufactured using fossil fuels and other carbon dioxide-emitting materials. This is known as 'black hydrogen'. There is a move towards 'green hydrogen', which is made from renewable energy sources.

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Hydrogen Fuel
Green hydrogen can be produced in Australia using solar and wind power. Photo: Getty Images.

"As the world goes to a carbon neutral economy by the mid part of this century, the economy for these coal and gas and other fossil fuel exports will eventually decline and so the question is, what will replace it?" Baldwin said.

One of these replacements could be hydrogen energy made from solar and wind energy  in Australia.  When hydrogen is burnt it produces water, not carbon dioxide, making it a clean energy source.

Hydrogen is also an abundant gas in the atmosphere, so its production is sustainable.

"There is a real desire across sectors, in government and in the community, for something to change and for a truly low carbon solution to be offered .. and hydrogen is that," Dr Daniel Roberts leader of the CSIRO Hydrogen Energy Systems Future Science Platform said.

Will Using Hydrogen Make The Cost Of Living Cheaper?

Until hydrogen is adapted to larger industrial scales, the way it will affect the cost of living is difficult to determine.

Hydrogen Fuel
Why hydrogen is burnt it produces water, not carbon. Photo: Getty Images

"The long-term aim is for a low carbon hydrogen reduction industry which has to make hydrogen that can be stored and moved around," Roberts said.

Black hydrogen continues to be the cheapest form of hydrogen production, but it also poses a significant environmental risk.

Green hydrogen is currently more expensive because of the cost of the equipment and of the energy used to make hydrogen from renewables.

Hydrogen Fuel
Hydrogen fuel could be used to power cars. Photo: Getty Images.
Are There Any Problems With Hydrogen?

Two key concerns about the broader application of hydrogen energy include safety and scale.

A hydrogen fuel station explosion in Santa Clara, Califonia on June 2 had reignited concerns about the widespread use of the fuel.

Baldwin believes we already have knowledge on how to manage any hydrogen risk and so disasters in the area can be avoided.

"Hydrogen is an explosive gas and if it wasn't we wouldn't be talking about it as an energy source or as a fuel," Baldwin said.

Hydrogen Explosion
The hydrogen fuel explosion In Santa Clara, California. Photo: Twitter/ Santa Clara FD

"The challenge is bringing those into a tightly controlled industrial environment ...  out into the general public which as a different risk profile attached to it."

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au