For this latest edition of our Energy Blog, we interviewed Dr Linda Wright, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Hydrogen Council.
Dr Wright has worked in sustainability and renewable energy for 20 years, with a particular interest in the advancement of green hydrogen as a reliable form of renewable energy.
A short video from this interview can be found below, and we have noted some key takeaways from the interview.
Hydrogen energy – already a major global industry
Many are unaware that hydrogen is already a major global industry. However, to date, most hydrogen has been produced from non-renewable sources (natural gas and steam). To illustrate the current scale of production, global CO2 emissions from the production of this 'brown' hydrogen are equivalent to the total CO2 emissions for Indonesia and the United Kingdom, combined.
The encouraging development in the hydrogen energy space is the increasing popularity of 'green' hydrogen. This form of hydrogen is produced by splitting water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis – and like all hydrogen, once compressed or liquefied, it can be stored, transported, and traded as a commodity.
It's about diversity of renewable energy sources
Green hydrogen creates opportunities in the renewable energy space as it is a more consistent and reliable source of energy when compared to other renewables, like solar and wind. It also provides a renewable energy solution for industries that cannot be electrified. However, Dr Wright emphasised that each renewable energy source has its pros and cons, and we need to utilise every available energy source effectively if New Zealand is to achieve its target of 100% renewable energy by 2030.
When discussing the advantages of different forms of energy, Dr Wright says "it's not about winners or losers, it's about achieving climate change objectives…"
The opportunity for New Zealand
The green hydrogen opportunity for New Zealand is twofold: assisting with domestic decarbonisation and becoming a net exporter. New Zealand is well placed to capitalise on this opportunity given the diversity of its renewable energy sources – in particular, there is the unique possibility of harnessing the renewable energy that powers Tiwai Point to mass produce green hydrogen once the smelter is closed.
On the subject of export markets, Germany has already indicated that it will be a net importer of green hydrogen, and Japan and South Korea (all energy-intensive economies with limited opportunities to create their own renewable energy) also present attractive export opportunities for New Zealand.
Capitalising on the opportunity
Dr Wright recognises that there is still a huge amount of work required in order to capitalise on the green hydrogen opportunity, including from both the public and private sectors. However, this work is happening now – and the recent announcement in Budget 2022 of the development of a hydrogen roadmap is an example of this. The key focus for the private sector is to ensure it has the technical knowledge and expertise to deliver the IP and infrastructure required for the industry, and this will require agility given things are moving at a rapid pace.
We thoroughly enjoyed our conversation with Dr Wright – and want to say a big thank you for sharing her experience and insights with us.
This article is intended only to provide a summary of the subject covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. No person should act in reliance on any statement contained in this publication without first obtaining specific professional advice. If you require any advice or further information on the subject matter of this newsletter, please contact the partner/solicitor in the firm who normally advises you, or alternatively contact one of the partners listed below.