Queensland plans for green hydrogen plant, a technology Elon Musk dismissed as ‘Dumb’

Queensland plans for green hydrogen plant, a technology Elon Musk dismissed as ‘Dumb’

The Queensland state government revealed plans to establish a renewable hydrogen demonstration plant next to CS Energy’s Kogan Creek Power Station in Western Downs. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla. has previously described the use of hydrogen cells to power electric cars as “Staggeringly dumb” and “crazy”. 


The demonstration project will be undertaken as a partnership between Queensland utility CS Energy and Japan’s IHI Corporation. The plans include a hydrogen electrolyser and hydrogen fuel cell along with a solar farm at the same location. 


Andrew Bills, CEO of CS Energy, says the project will focus on the hydrogen electrolyser. It will be completely powered by behind-the-meter solar energy. This would make it one of the few truly ‘green hydrogen’ projects in Australia.


Meanwhile Musk’s criticism centers around his belief that storing electricity in a battery is far more efficient than utilizing hydrogen.  


Interestingly Tesla’s Sydney based Chair, Robyn Denholm, has expressed an interest in learning more about hydrogen’s role as a green source of energy, despite the infamous CEO’s remarks. At the startup accelerator program, Startmate’s annual Liminal conference Ms. Denholm said, “I understand electric vehicles, I understand energy systems but there’s always been this debate about hydrogen and I’ve heard about it and read a little bit about it.I wanted to understand more about why people think that hydrogen can be a green, renewable energy source in the future.” 


Relying on renewables:

According to Australian Energy Statistics update 2020, total renewable energy consumption in Australia increased by 5%  compared to the previous year1. Like most other nations, Australia is motivated to increase its reliance on renewable energy due to concerns regarding climate change and a need for energy independence.


What is green hydrogen?

Hydrogen fuel that is created with the use of renewable energy is referred to as green hydrogen. Using hydrogen to fuel vehicles or electricity is not a new concept, NASA has been using it to fuel its rockets for over 50 years now, however not much progress has been made with regards to creating this fuel in an energy efficient manner. The new demonstration plant would be a step towards establishing such infrastructure. 


Despite Musk’s remarks it seems the push for green hydrogen will take place world wide. The United State’s Department of Energy will invest up to $100 million into R&D for hydrogen fuel cells while the European Union has committed to an investment of $430 billion by 20302



Sources:

1. 2020, Australian Energy Update 2020, Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources [online] available from: energy.gov.au/publications/australian-energy-update-2020 [Feb, 2021]

2. Cho, R (2021) “Why We Need Green Hydrogen”, Earth Institute, Columbia University, [online] available from: blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2021/01/07/need-green-hydrogen/  [Feb, 2021]