Australian-first renewable hydrogen highway to link eastern states

An Australian-first renewable hydrogen refuelling network promises to kickstart the high-potential hydrogen-for-transport sector.

Australia’s first renewable hydrogen refuelling network will be built along the nation’s busiest freight route, thanks to tri-state collaboration between Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland governments.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the states have agreed to collaborate on the development of the east coast hydrogen refuelling network that includes the nation’s most critical roads and highways.

The Victorian and NSW Governments are investing $10 million each in grant funding to co-deliver the Hume Hydrogen Highway (HHH) program, which will support the development of hydrogen refuelling stations along the Hume highway – including at least four stations in Victoria.

The $20 million funding will also provide grants for approximately 25 hydrogen-powered long-haul heavy freight vehicles to adopt zero-emission technology, such as fuel cells.

Victoria’s Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio said fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) hold potential advantages for Victoria’s freight sector over existing zero-emissions alternatives, including faster refuelling times, increased payload, and greater range.

“The renewable hydrogen highway will create new jobs, drive investment across the east coast and is a landmark step towards meeting Victoria’s target to reach net-zero by 2050,” Minister D’Ambrosio said.

The Victorian, NSW and Queensland Governments will collaborate on the development of the renewable hydrogen highway by 2026, focusing on the Hume Highway, the Pacific Highway and the Newell Highway, NSW Treasurer and Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean said.

In Victoria, the HHH grant program will support the development of at least four refuelling stations along the Hume highway.

“Renewable hydrogen will increasingly become a competitive zero emissions fuel option for our heavy transport sector, giving our trucking industry the opportunity to decarbonise their fleets,” Minister Kean said.

“The governments of NSW, Victoria and Queensland are signing Memorandums of Understanding for the refuelling corridors, starting with the Hume Highway, the Pacific Highway and the Newell Highway.”

Queensland Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen Mick De Brenni said hydrogen presented “an enormous opportunity” for the state, including emissions reduction opportunities and fuel security benefits.

The MOU follows an announcement earlier this week of a renewable hydrogen plant being developed in Queensland’s Western Downs. The demonstration plant and refuelling facility has received a $28.9 million investment from the Queensland Government and will have capacity to produce 50,000 kilograms of renewable hydrogen each year when operational in 2023.

Volvo Vice President of Emerging Technology Business Development Paul Illmer welcomed the collaboration.

“Hydrogen will play a vital part in Volvo Group Australia’s decarbonisation strategy during the latter half of this decade,” he said.

“A holistic approach to fuelling the Australian economy is needed to accelerate our journey to a fossil fuel free future.

“And for our part we are committed to building Australian engineered battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell heavy vehicles here in Queensland as a part of that strategy.

“The roll out of local hydrogen infrastructure gives us the certainty to push ahead on that journey.”

Transport is one of Australia’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 25 per cent of Victoria’s total carbon footprint. Renewable hydrogen shows strong potential to be cost competitive with diesel – which currently powers most of Australia’s freight industry.

Further details about the initiative will be provided in the coming months. Applications are expected to open around mid-2022.

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