The Smart Energy Council’s hydrogen division is leading an industry-based effort to establish a zero carbon certification scheme that will guarantee the provenance of green hydrogen produced in Australia and ensure it is made from renewable resources, and not from coal or gas.
The Guarantee of Origin-style scheme aims to promote the uptake and distribution of certified renewable hydrogen, ammonia and metal products made in Australia, while also preventing the “greenwashing” of hydrogen made from non-renewable resources.
The SEC’s Hydrogen Australia says it is working to establish a “robust, internationally accepted, provenance certification scheme” that would inform buyers of the source of their product and operate as a tracking system ensuring the quality of any end-products made using renewable hydrogen, including ammonia and green metals.
At this stage, it’s a work in progress that will start off based on the industry-led CertifHy scheme in Europe. Hydrogen Australia says it is using its international networks to establish bilateral agreements to develop the scheme and identifying suitable partners and places in Australia to conduct pilots before rolling out Australia wide and further internationally.
SEC chief John Grimes says the SEC and Hydrogen Australia saw the certification scheme as a “priority project,” driven by the surge in interest in hydrogen, as a vital ingredient in the shift to net-zero emissions – a goal being targeted by all of Australia’s states and territories, if not by its federal government.
“So hydrogen is going to be essential. It’s a really good news story. It is part of the future – but it’s got to be the right sort of hydrogen,” Grimes told RenewEconomy in an interview this week. “You know, carbon-embedded hydrogen takes us on a road to nowhere.
“That’s not to say that there won’t be other forms of hydrogen and derivatives in the market, but we want to differentiate because we don’t want to see green-washing,” he adds. “So, you know, we’re going to say… well, here’s the real stuff and if you want to buy that then we can provide an independent, trusted mechanism to certify and label it as such.”
And green hydrogen – the real stuff – is indeed a good news story. As RE reported last week, a boom in green hydrogen production and export plans has helped elevate Australia to its highest position ever on the Ernst & Young (EY) Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index.
Major new project proposals are emerging on an almost weekly basis around the country, with the most recent example coming from gen-tailer Origin Energy, with plans to develop a huge 300MW electrolyser in Townsville and produce more than 36,000 tonnes of green hydrogen a year for export markets.
But not all hydrogen is created equal. As previously explained on RE by industry expert Scott Hamilton, who is now working with Hydrogen Australia to provide some of the “muscle” behind the certification scheme, there are other colours in the hydrogen spectrum.
There’s Blue Hydrogen, where it is made without the production of additional emissions, such as using nuclear power; Synthetic Blue Hydrogen, where the process uses technology like carbon capture and storage or carbon credits to achieve lower emissions; and then Grey, Brown and Black Hydrogen, is where it is produced using natural gas or brown coal with additional emissions.
Hamilton and the team led by the SEC’s Hydrogen Australia want to ensure that when customers buy green hydrogen in Australia, that is what they are getting – particularly in the all important export market.
“And that’s because that’s going to be what the market demands, really,” Hamilton told RenewEconomy this week, noting the recent flurry of countries pledging to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 – with the glaring exception of Australia.
“We’re going to have to be able to deliver green. And we want to make sure that that brand is really solid. And that’s what this is about, making sure that what we do here is putting us in the best possible light … [in] both the domestic markets. …as well as the overseas markets, such as Japan, Germany, South Korea and Singapore.”
Grimes says the effort has already received “significant funding” from a range of industry and philanthropic sources, that has helped put together a professional team to make a serious start on the scheme and deliver it through to completion.
He says the scheme will seek to verify renewable hydrogen, ammonia, steel, zinc, and other associated products, produced within Australia, “cognisant of the European CertifHy scheme and any Australian government scheme.”
Hamilton notes that despite the renewable hydrogen industry being in its infancy in Australia – or perhaps because of it – the need to establish an independent method of certification is increasingly urgent.
“We’re already finding that a number of the members who are developing these real projects now that are at various levels, some of them getting into the financial closure sort of area are already having the debates about how do we show that we are certified,” he told RE.
“And so they are wanting to put that into their contracts and their agreements with their potential suppliers,” he said.
“That’s why we’re feeling that we need to get in here now because we can’t afford to wait another few years for whatever the [governments] or other bodies come up with.”
That said, adds Grimes, it must again be noted that “this is not a scheme for everybody, and those people seeking to use the hydrogen tag as a kind of a green-wash, well, they need not apply.
“So, you know, we don’t expect that this would be universal, but we do expect that the genuine players who are committed to a low fossil carbon hydrogen future will absolutely, absolutely see the value in this because it allows them to differentiate their product from from their competitors.”