Low-cost, carbon-free: How hydrogen is shaping SA’s renewable energy future

20 June 2023

To understand how hydrogen is shaping SA’s renewable energy future, we unpack how clean hydrogen works, and how it’s used.

Photo: South Australian Department for Energy and Mining

South Australia’s world-class vineyards aren’t the only thing putting our state on the map.

For the past 21 years, we’ve been carving out an enviable reputation as a world leader in the transition to renewable energy.

When we started our clean energy journey at the turn of the century, our state ran on virtually no renewable energy sources.

Now, current predictions indicate that we’ll be running on approximately 90 per cent renewables by 2025-26, thanks to investment in our firmly established wind, solar and battery industries.

To help us achieve our ultimate goal — becoming a net 100 per cent renewable energy generator — we’re adding another clean energy technology into the mix: hydrogen.

In fact, the South Australian Government is investing more than three quarters of a billion dollars to accelerate new hydrogen projects and shipping infrastructure, in a move that further advances our state’s reputation as a global clean energy leader, Eytan Lenko, CEO of Boundless Earth said.

“South Australia has absolutely been the leader in developing renewables,” he said.

“When the rest of Australia stopped moving forward on renewable energy, South Australia kept going — and now it’s the state with the highest penetration of renewable solar and wind in Australia.

He also said that South Australia is leading the way in green energy, with one of the greenest solar and wind powered grids in the world.

To understand how hydrogen is shaping SA’s renewable energy future, let’s first unpack how clean hydrogen works, and how it’s used.

Green hydrogen explained

Hydrogen allows us to rethink how we generate and store energy, heat our homes, fuel transport, and decarbonise heavy industries such as mining and steel production.

It is made at hydrogen production facilities, using a process called electrolysis. As part of this process, an electric current is sent into water, which separates the water into hydrogen and oxygen.

When hydrogen is made using renewable electricity, it becomes a carbon-free fuel, called ‘green hydrogen’.

Here in South Australia, we often generate more solar and wind energy than we need. So rather than let our natural resources go to waste, we can use this excess energy to produce green hydrogen.

Green hydrogen can be used like natural gas, meaning it has many uses – heating and powering homes, powering fuel cell electric cars and trucks, buses and trains, and even generating electricity.

Becoming a world-class renewable hydrogen supplier

South Australia is leading the charge in the race to supply clean, green, renewable hydrogen to the world, thanks to our world-leading coincident wind and solar resources, expanses of land, outstanding infrastructure and skilled workforce; bolstered by significant government investment.

At the heart of the South Australian Government’s investment in hydrogen is the Green Hydrogen Power Station, set to be operational by the end of 2025.

The $593 million Green Hydrogen Power Station, along with an electrolyser and storage facility, is being built near Whyalla, in South Australia’s Upper Spencer Gulf.

This forms part of the Hydrogen Jobs Plan, which is expected to deliver significant benefits for South Australia, including new jobs for South Australians, enhanced grid security, and will help to unlock a pipeline of renewable energy developments and associated manufacturing opportunities.

But this new power station isn’t our state’s first foray into hydrogen production!

Hydrogen Park SA, located at the globally recognised Tonsley Innovation District, is already supplying more than 700 homes in Adelaide with a blended gas made of five per cent renewable hydrogen.

It’s part of an Australian-first project, and one of only a few in the world to supply a renewable gas blend to homes connected to an existing gas network and has plans to expand this to 300 homes and increase to a 10% hydrogen blend to further decarbonise our gas network.

To stay up to date with hydrogen developments in South Australia – including job opportunities in our state’s booming renewable energy sector – visit the Hydrogen South Australia website. Or, to learn more about South Australia’s clean, green state of mind, check out ‘Counting down to zero’.