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Potential Domestic Energy System Vulnerabilities from Major Exports of Green Hydrogen: A Case Study of Australia


Australia has clear aspirations to become a major global exporter of hydrogen as a replacement for fossil fuels and as part of the drive to reduce CO2 emissions, as set out in the National Hydrogen Strategy released in 2019 jointly by the federal and state governments. In 2021, the Australian Energy Market Operator specified a grid forecast scenario for the first time entitled “hydrogen superpower”. Not only does Australia hope to capitalise on the emerging demand for zero-carbon hydrogen in places like Japan and South Korea by establishing a new export industry, but it also needs to mitigate the built-in carbon risk of its export revenue from coal and LNG as major customers, such as Japan and South Korea, move to decarbonise their energy systems. This places hydrogen at the nexus of energy, climate change mitigation and economic growth, with implications for energy security. Much of the published literature on this topic concentrates on the details of what being a major hydrogen exporter will look like and what steps will need to be taken to achieve it. However, there appears to be a gap in the study of the implications for Australia’s domestic energy system in terms of energy security and export economic vulnerability. The objective of this paper is to develop a conceptual framework for the implications of becoming a major hydrogen exporter on Australia’s energy system. Various green hydrogen export scenarios for Australia were compared, and the most recent and comprehensive was selected as the basis for further examination for domestic energy system impacts. In this scenario, 248.5 GW of new renewable electricity generation capacity was estimated to be required by 2050 to produce the additional 867 TWh required for an electrolyser output of 2088 PJ of green hydrogen for export, which will comprise 55.9% of Australia’s total electricity demand at that time. The characteristics of comparative export-oriented resources and their interactions with the domestic economy and energy system are then examined through the lens of the resource curse hypothesis, and the LNG and aluminium industries. These existing resource export frameworks are reviewed for applicability of specific factors to export-oriented green hydrogen production, with applicable factors then compiled into a novel conceptual framework for exporter domestic implications from large-scale exports of green hydrogen. The green hydrogen export superpower (2050) scenario is then quantitatively assessed using the established indicators for energy exporter vulnerability and domestic energy security, comparing it to Australia’s 2019 energy exports profile. This assessment finds that in almost all factors, exporter vulnerability is reduced, and domestic energy security is enhanced by the transition from fossil fuel exports to green hydrogen, with the exception of an increase in exposure of the domestic energy system to international market forces.

Related subjects: Policy & Socio-Economics
Countries: Japan

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