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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has officially opened applications for the Hydrogen Headstart program, a $2 billion initiative aimed at accelerating the growth of the renewable hydrogen industry in the country.

Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, described it as the “largest government investment in Australia’s developing hydrogen industry.”

The Hydrogen Headstart program was first announced in the 2023-24 Budget and is designed to support projects that plan to produce renewable hydrogen or its derivatives at scale. Successful projects will receive a production credit delivered over ten years of operations to bridge the gap between the cost of producing renewable hydrogen and the market price.

According to ARENA CEO Darren Miller, the Hydrogen Headstart program marks a pivotal step toward unlocking Australia’s potential as a renewable energy superpower. “With Australia’s abundant renewable energy resources, we’re well placed to be a global leader in the renewable hydrogen industry,” he stated.

Renewable hydrogen holds significant promise for transforming Australia’s energy landscape. It offers the potential for transportable and exportable zero-emissions energy, as well as the ability to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors and serve as an industrial feedstock. However, as the industry scales up, it requires government support to compete on the global stage.

The Hydrogen Headstart program was developed in collaboration with the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment, and Water (DCCEEW), following extensive consultation with key stakeholders. This process included 114 written submissions and three public forums with over 400 participants.

Applications for the program will go through a two-stage competitive process. The initial Expression of Interest Stage is open now until November 10, 2023. ARENA expects to announce shortlisted projects in early 2024, with successful applicants given around six months to prepare full applications.

ARENA’s involvement in supporting renewable hydrogen is well-established. Since 2017, ARENA has committed over $308 million to 46 renewable hydrogen projects, spanning early-stage research and development initiatives to first-of-a-kind deployments. These projects encompass a wide range of applications, including hydrogen refueling, hydrogen trucks, hydrogen for producing renewable ammonia, hydrogen for use in alumina refining, and remote power generation.

Earlier this year, ARENA allocated $25 million for Hydrogen Research & Development (R&D) funding, in addition to $50 million for four hydrogen projects supported as part of the Australian-German HyGATE initiative. Furthermore, ARENA announced $47.5 million for the development of a 10 MW electrolyser plant in the Pilbara region, as part of the Renewable Hydrogen Deployment Round.

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