The New Zealand government’s energy strategies are focused on transitioning our country to reach 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035 and to be a net zero carbon emitter by 2050. Hydrogen is emerging as a key technology that could help to achieve this target by ‘decarbonising’ parts of our economy.
According to the government’s Green Paper, A vision for hydrogen in New Zealand, a number of demonstration projects are already underway, with others planned. These include the Tuaropaki – Obayashi joint venture Halcyon Power production facility at the Mokai geothermal power near Taupo, the Ports of Auckland hydrogen demonstration project, and the Refining NZ green hydrogen study at Marsden Point.
The biggest challenge facing hydrogen as a fuel is its cost, mainly because of the industry’s technical immaturity and limited scale. At a current production cost of nearly three times that of fossil fuel alternatives, this makes it a hard sell. Nevertheless, unlike the fossil fuels it could replace, it emits only water when used as a fuel. There are also concerns over its safe production and transportation, although tests to date appear to have neutralised these fears.
With international government, scientific and industrial interest growing, the hydrogen equation is changing rapidly. According to the NZ Herald, Australia’s government has invested around A$100 million (NZ$107m) to develop its hydrogen industry. And, at the Davos forum last year, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government is aiming to reduce the production cost of hydrogen by at least 90 percent by the year 2050, making it cheaper than natural gas.
Standards support emerging technologies
Across the energy sector, standards have always played a key role in supporting policy and regulatory frameworks. They allow for interoperability between technologies, provide consistent frameworks for design and implementation and, critically, ensure safety. This is highly relevant to new and emerging technologies, such as hydrogen as a fuel.
At an international level, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) already have standards in place, which are being developed to ensure the safe and efficient introduction of hydrogen technologies.
Standards New Zealand has started the process of putting together a draft strategy for hydrogen standards implementation in this country. Following a government and industry gathering in Wellington last year – the Hydrogen Standards Forum – Standards NZ Senior Advisor for standards development, Chris Forsman, confirms a focus on the 2050 zero carbon emissions goal.
“Standards New Zealand has analysed current standards cited in regulations and assessed international best practice in hydrogen development. We are now drafting a pathway to enable the integration of hydrogen as an alternative fuel source within New Zealand’s energy landscape by 2050,” he said.
Pathway to hydrogen as an alternative fuel
This high-level pathway has the following objectives:
- Enable multiple hydrogen supply, generation, and industrial feedstock pathways to support the NZ Government’s carbon emission reduction targets.
- Ensure standards reflect the need for safe production, distribution, transportation, and development of hydrogen bulk-storage hubs. This will create an environment conducive to foreign investment, serve the needs of the end user, and position NZ to capitalise on export opportunities.
“By comparison with other OECD countries, New Zealand’s existing extensive natural gas network is unique and well developed,” says Chris. “This, plus the potential of our renewable energy resources to produce green hydrogen, gives us a very effective entry point to launch hydrogen nationally.”