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Whyalla set for hydrogen jobs boom

Whyalla will become a global leader in the production of hydrogen for power and export with confirmation of South Australian budget funds for a new generation plant, local officials say.

The state government in its budget confirmed plans to build a 250-megawatt hydrogen electrolyser, a 200-megawatt hydrogen power station, and a 3600 tonnes hydrogen storage facility in the Whyalla region.

The developments will cost $593 million, with details of the funding coming after senior figures in the hydrogen sector gathered in Adelaide this week to discuss developments and opportunities to grow their industry.

Following the conference key players, including representatives from Santos, Fortescue Future Industries, Origin Energy, Chiyoda, ENEOS Australia, Mitsubishi Australia and AMP Energy visited Whyalla, touring the city and the Port Bonython hydrogen hub precinct.

Mayor Clare McLaughlin said there was little doubt about the opportunities for the region to support future green hydrogen production, use, and export.

She said the establishment of a hydrogen capability would help decarbonise local heavy industries and support the global transition to a low-carbon future.

Government and private sector development would also provide thousands of new jobs for the region in the coming years.

“These projects will provide long-awaited diversification for our economy, increase our population, and put us on the map as a global leader in hydrogen production and export,” Ms McLaughlin said.

In his budget speech on Thursday, Treasurer Stephen Mullighan said it was essential to maintain support for infrastructure initiatives that provided long-term, sustainable economic growth.

“As the nation experiences surging wholesale electricity prices, driven largely by soaring coal prices and the failure of national energy policy over the last decade, South Australia remains at the forefront of energy transition,” he said.

“Once again a Labor government prepares to take the next nation-leading step in securing our energy future, one provided by cheap, green, dispatchable electricity with our hydrogen jobs plan.”

The budget also provided a further $30 million to develop the Port Bonython facilities as part of a $140 million partnership with the federal government and private industry.

Funding from both levels of government was welcomed by the sector, but Australian Hydrogen Council Chief Executive Fiona Simon also called for policy certainty from the Commonwealth.

Dr Simon said the government must urgently introduce measures to create a market for hydrogen.

“The eyes of the new energy world are fixed on Australia. Our trade partners are closely watching how we develop this market,” she said.

“But the hydrogen economy can’t wait for market forces alone to drive decarbonisation. We need policy certainty and coordination to get this market to scale.

“This could include market mechanisms to value carbon emissions, clean energy and fuel standards, taxation support for research and development, new investment and targeted transition deadlines.”

Dr Simon said pressure was mounting as the effects of climate change became increasingly evident and energy security remained a priority issue across the world.

“The time for action is now,” she said.

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