Australia’s first renewable hydrogen refuelling network for long haul trucks will be built along the nation’s busiest freight route it was announced earlier today.
The state governments of Victoria, NSW and Queensland confirmed that they were set to collaborate on the historic first step towards what they have described as ‘decarbonising the trucking industry.”
New South Wales and Victoria, as part of the memorandums of understanding, confirmed they had agreed to invest $20 million to build at least four renewable hydrogen refuelling stations between Sydney and Melbourne.
The funding will build the network and provide grants for Australia’s first long haul hydrogen fuel cell electric freight trucks – taking advantage of the greater efficiency for freight through fast refuelling, increased load capacity and range.
The Victorian, NSW and Queensland Governments will collaborate on the development of the renewable hydrogen highway by 2026, focusing on the Hume Highway, the Pacific Highway and the Newell Highway.
In a statement issued to media, the Victorian Government referred to transport as one of Australia’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 25 per cent of Victoria’s total carbon footprint.
Renewable hydrogen showed strong potential, according to the statement, to be cost competitive with diesel which currently powers most of Victoria’s freight industry.
The highway program is expected to unlock new markets and create new jobs, driving investment through regional and metropolitan areas along Australia’s eastern seaboard.
With 25 per cent of road traffic between Sydney and Melbourne comprised of freight, NatRoad CEO Warren Clark said the potential impact of today’s announcement was significant.
“We are years away from our industry transitioning to being fully fuelled by renewables and hydrogen is still to establish itself as a viable option but this is an important first step,” said Clark.
“Almost nine million tonnes of road freight are moved each way between Sydney and Melbourne alone – which is 1200 freight vehicle trips a day,” he continued.
“Sydney–Brisbane road freight is more than 4 million tonnes, which equates to an average of 556 freight vehicle trips per day.
“And Melbourne–Brisbane road freight is more than 1.6 million tonnes, involving an average of 220 freight vehicle trips per day.
Renewable hydrogen, according to NSW Minister for Energy and Environment, Matt Kean, will increasingly become a competitive zero emissions fuel option for the heavy transport sector, giving the trucking industry the opportunity to decarbonise their fleets.
“The governments of NSW, Victoria and Queensland are signing Memorandums of Understanding for the refuelling corridors, starting with the Hume Highway, the Pacific Highway and the Newell Highway,” he said.
FCAI Chief Executive Tony Weber said the project was an important step in preparing Australia’s eastern transport networks for a zero-emissions future.
“While this announcement is initially aimed at the trucking industry, it is a historic first step in preparing the broader transport sector for large-scale renewable hydrogen use. It is great to see three state governments behind this program,” he said.
As renewable hydrogen is energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar which is then stored as hydrogen gas, there was, claimed Weber, potential for it, as a fuel source, to eventually be cost-competitive with diesel, which per VFACTS data, currently powers around one-third of Australia’s new vehicles.
“To prepare Australia for a zero-emissions transport future, more infrastructure investment such as this hydrogen project and leadership from governments at all levels will be needed.”
While some like Queensland Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen, Mick De Brenni viewed hydrogen as presenting an enormous opportunity for the State, including emissions reduction opportunities and fuel security benefits, Warren Clark recognised some of the real-world challenges that industry can expect to overcome in the short-term.
“Whoever wins the Federal election has a lot of work to do in terms of putting in place regulatory standards and incentives that encourage the uptake of renewable-powered heavy vehicles in a market that does not yet exist,” he said.