On Saturday 5 August, representatives of Moreland Council and the Victorian State Government took obvious delight in announcing that $1 million was to be spent to bring a commercial-scale hydrogen refueling station for garbage trucks online.
It will be the first in Australia to be powered exclusively by renewable energy, from the council’s own solar panels, supplemented with wind energy from the grid.
Standing in front of a large garbage truck that will be converted to run on hydrogen, State Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio announced that the Andrews government was providing an additional million dollars from its 20 million New Energy Jobs Fund, which complements the $1.5 million that Moreland council has allocated for the coming three years.
Labelling the project a “first foundation stone” she hoped it could be scaled up and replicated across Victoria. She also emphasised the potential for local manufacturing jobs, with hoped for multiplier effects.
Moreland Council has been taking a wide variety of actions to its emissions dating back to its 2001 Energy Foundation. It has been carbon neutral (with offsets) since 2012, with continuing moves to reduce offset levels, with an aim for a 22% reduction in community emissions by 2020.
Several years ago council officers realised that its 18 rubbish collection trucks (out of a total fleet of 320 vehicles) were using over 50% of the fuel and generating over 50% of its emissions. After detailed investigations, they decided Hydrogen fuel cell technology was the way forward.
According to Stuart Nesbitt, the council’s Climate Change Technical Officer, the hope is that – planning and permits depending, the refuelling station should be up and running late next year, at the Council’s Hadfield Depot. A 1.2MW array of solar PV will also be installed.
The trucks retrofitted during the same period. By early 2019, Moreland’s residents should be noticing quieter rubbish collection and better air quality, while carbon emissions and costs for the council decrease.
The fifty people at the launch also heard from Atillio Pigneiri, CEO of H2U a specialist developer of hydrogen infrastructure initiatives for sustainable mobility and renewable energy storage which had worked closely with the Council.
He emphasized the partnerships that drove the project and emphasiezd the ‘inspired leadership’ of Moreland Council, which is also working with vehicle manufacturer CNH Industrial to deliver the pilot project
This is an interesting project. It seems that the Council – driven by officers who ‘get it’ and with support of councillors (a mix of greens, Labour and independents) – is willing to stick its neck out and try to show the way. They will be watched closely by groups like Climate Action Moreland, but also by councils near and far.
Will it work to drive down emissions and encourage a market in fuel cells for commercial vehicles, alongside the burgeoning market for EVs for passenger transport (In 2013 Moreland Council installed multiple public charging points, which are becoming more frequently used)?
Presently, it’s unclear what the dominant technology for urban transport will be. Will Tesla’s BEVs capture not merely the headlines but also the hearts, minds and markets? The city of Sacramento recently announced it was going for electric battery garbage trucks while Toyota plumps for hydrogen.
Will fuel cells fail to come down the learning curve, generate economies of scale and so be useful only in niches where cost is not as important as performance (such as the military). Moreland Council is taking a punt. We will know soon enough if they win big.”
Watch this space…
Additional (and invaluable) input from John Englart