The introduction of a joint New South Wales and Victoria grant funding round has set off plans to build Australia’s first “renewable hydrogen highway” and green up one of the country’s busiest freight corridors along the east coast.
Grant applications opened on Monday, with $20 million set aside to assist the design and construction of at least four sustainable hydrogen refueling stations along the route, as well as around 25 hydrogen-powered trucks.
Successful candidates must enter into a cooperative funding agreement with both governments, who have each contributed $10 million to the Hume Hydrogen Highway.
The Hume Hydrogen Highway is the first phase of a larger tri-state plan unveiled in March that will run farther up the east coast to Queensland beginning in 2026, connecting the Hume Highway, Pacific Highway, and Newell Highway.
“We’re looking for strong industry engagement amongst refueling station owners, fleet operators, truck manufacturers, big freight clients, and other organizations that will be critical to the initiative’s success,” said NSW energy minister Matt Kean.
“The goal of this program is to demonstrate the potential of renewable hydrogen for large vehicles in order to shift the freight sector to zero-emission energy sources.”
“The Hume Hydrogen Highway will bring new jobs and investment to New South Wales and Victoria.” It is likely to increase the use of renewable hydrogen in the heavy transport sector,” Kean stated.
In government decarbonisation plans, heavy transport is frequently lumped in with other “hard to abate” industries, many of which are projected to rely on renewable hydrogen to achieve net-zero emissions.
To that aim, several truck manufacturers are currently focusing on the development of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, though many are also hedging their bets and producing electric long-haul trucks.
Governments are also keeping their options open. Transport, according to Victoria’s energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio, is one of Australia’s greatest producers of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 25% of the state’s total carbon footprint.
“Australia’s busiest corridor is the ideal site to begin the transition to a zero-emission freight sector,” said D’Ambrosio.
“The renewable hydrogen highway will generate new employment and investment along the east coast, and it is a significant step toward Victoria’s goal of halving emissions by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.”
The deadline for grant submissions for the Hume Hydrogen Highway is October 21, 2022.