Executive Committee member Brian Attwood represented Consumers SA at the Energy Consumers Australia Board Stakeholder Forum held on 8 November 2017.
The meeting was told of a pilot program to use excess wind power generation to make hydrogen and put it into the gas pipes at no more than 10% volume thus giving us added fuel to fire the gas turbines for generation of electricity at peak times. Hopefully this will lower gas and electricity prices.
In follow-up correspondence to Brian, Australian Gas Networks provided this extra detail about the scheme and related activities:
Gas Vision 2050 was released in March 2017 and was jointly developed by all parts of the gas sector from gas exploration and production, to transmission and distribution networks, to gas appliance manufacturers.
Gas Vision 2050 provides a conceptual outline of how the gas sector can work collaboratively with the electricity sector to provide Australian homes and businesses with reliable base load energy, whilst ensuring Australia can achieve its emissions reductions goals. In particular, the document details the decarbonisation journey of gas networks and the policies that are required in order to facilitate this journey.
It is a qualitative document that:
- highlights the importance of gas to Australia today;
- explains the low-emission transformational technologies of biogas, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen production; and
- describes an aspirational and attainable future for gas across Australia in which renewables and gas (including hydrogen and biogas) can support each other to achieve a near zero-carbon energy sector by 2050.
As mentioned above, the document outlines that hydrogen can be produced in multiple ways, most commonly though electrolysis (splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity) and steam methane reforming or coal gasification with carbon capture and storage. The former (electrolysis), has great potential in an Australian context, where we can use excess renewable electricity (wind at night and solar during the day) to produce hydrogen which can be stored in the networks – essentially using networks as a battery and using this clean gas in homes, business and to generate electricity at a later date.
- assists to decarbonise direct use gas (through the use of zero carbon hydrogen in the networks);
- assists the decarbonisation of the electricity sector through facilitating investment in more large scale renewables); and
- utilises existing infrastructure as a battery.
We, and the sector more generally, consider this to be an exciting way forward for the energy sector (electricity and gas) as a whole. Networks are actively pursuing pilot biogas and hydrogen projects – for example AGIG is partnering with Wollongong-based AquaHydrex to develop a pilot electrolysis facility at our South Australian depot and we have had initial discussions with SA Power Networks regarding how we could work together and utilise electrolysis to ensure electricity and networks are utilised in the most efficient manner – to the benefit of customers. Energy Networks Australia are also continuing work in the area, having engaged Deloitte to develop a follow on report from Gas Vision 2050, detailing how hydrogen and biogas might be deployed in an Australian context. This report is due for release in the coming weeks.
The use of hydrogen in this way is being actively pursued overseas. For example the H21 Leeds City Gate project is studying the feasibility, from both a technical and economic viewpoint, of converting the existing natural gas network in Leeds, one of the largest UK cities, to 100% hydrogen. The work carried out to date indicates that they can significantly decarbonise parts of the existing gas network at minimal additional cost to consumers. This is coupled with a program to encourage consumers to move to gas for heating and cooking. More information regarding this project is available online at: http://www.northerngasnetworks.co.uk/document/h21-leeds-city-gate/
Brian also reports that:
Andrew McKenna of Business South Australia spoke of the high costs of power to small businesses, noting that while costs have come down for businesses, household consumers are yet to see this.
Andrew Nance spoke of the impact of rising prices in the essentials of housing, health and energy on low income families, explaining that their income is not covering costs. There was much discussion about cost reduction but how this could be achieved was very difficult.
Energy Consumers Australia ran the meeting, which saw many interstate people attending - along with ESCOSA , other consumer groups, South Australian Financial Counsellors Association and SAPN staff - but no energy retailers.