Legislative Council: Wednesday, June 01, 2022


Hydrogen Future

The Hon. R.B. MARTIN (15:32): In 2017, I was at an event with then Premier Jay Weatherill where an expert from the energy sector got up and started talking about hydrogen. He spoke passionately about how hydrogen was the future of clean energy and how South Australia was so well-placed to be a leader in the hydrogen field. A minute or so into this speech I glanced at the then premier and noticed that he was intently focused on the speaker and was furiously taking notes. Not long after, Premier Weatherill and energy minister Tom Koutsantonis launched the South Australian Hydrogen Roadmap, a forward-thinking and nation-leading document placing South Australia at the centre of the hydrogen future.

Fast forward and tomorrow the Malinauskas Labor government will release its first budget, a budget including more than 200 election commitments made over the past term of opposition, commitments such as cost-of-living concessions for those who need help the most, greater support to attract events and tourists to our great state, and a serious commitment to health.

While this will be a budget with a strong focus on our health commitments, the fulfilling of our election commitment to build a hydrogen power plant is the next big step in creating a clean energy, nation-leading project. A proud achievement of the previous Labor government was its policy settings, which led to a dramatic investment in renewable energy for South Australia. From wind farms to solar energy and the big battery, Labor led the way.

This has enabled us to take the next step and utilise any excess renewable energy being generated and turn it into stored energy. Just like pumped hydro and battery storage, turning an excess of renewable energy into a medium which can be turned on when electricity prices are high or the wind and sun are low is a game changer for our state.

Utilising an excess of renewable energy to turn water into hydrogen has even greater benefits than battery storage, as hydrogen can be transported, and there is an international market for it. From use in vehicles in South Korea and Japan to heavy manufacturing in Germany, hydrogen will future-proof our state. And compare this to the previous government's plan to deal with an excess of renewable energy by turning off home solar. Clearly, this was short-sighted and would have a negative impact on many South Australians who have invested their hard earned in rooftop solar.

In South Australia's past we were proudly a manufacturing state. Over time, our reliance on manufacturing has declined but there are opportunities in the future, if we take them. Right at this moment, people from all over the world are meeting at the Adelaide Convention Centre to discuss the future of hydrogen at the Australian Hydrogen Conference.

In Germany, they are currently trying to extract themselves from their reliance on Russian gas and they see that the future is hydrogen. Other countries are setting ambitious targets to combat climate change with a move to a zero carbon economy, and hydrogen is an important part of this journey. South Australia will be exceptionally well placed to benefit from these decisions as the world moves to a secure, reliable form of renewable energy.

Labor's plan to build an electrolyser and a hydrogen power plant will be the catalyst for cheaper electricity for industry. Frontier Economics has forecast that South Australia's hydrogen plant will reduce the wholesale cost of electricity to industry by 8 per cent. This investment in hydrogen is an investment in a lower input cost for business. In an increasingly competitive national and international economy a lower cost base will make South Australia an even more attractive place for business and industry to invest.

Up to 300 jobs will be created in the plant's construction phase, with many thousands more created through unlocking the pipeline of renewable energy projects, and a further 900 jobs are estimated to be created through the development of a hydrogen export industry. South Australia does not need to be a follower. We have the people, the ideas and the commitment to be a global leader in the hydrogen industry, and I look forward to future generations looking back at this Labor government and recognising them for their foresight and vision.