When I look around this incredible facility, I don’t see tanks, pipes, pumps and an electrolyser.
I see the future.
Now, the history of this future is two hundred years in the making, but let me look back just four years.
Four years ago, only industry insiders had heard about hydrogen as anything other than the rocket fuel that powered the main engines of the Space Shuttle.
Today hydrogen is bigger than bitcoin!
Well, almost. But it is certainly more important than bitcoin.
The first time I heard the business case for using hydrogen in our economy was from none other than the CEO of Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG), Ben Wilson.
Ben gave a presentation in which he described the industry’s goal to switch to hydrogen by 2050. The ambition was huge, but equally important was that Ben was presenting on behalf of the whole of the Australian gas industry and colleagues such as Andrew Dillon from Energy Networks Australia, not just AGIG.
His presentation epitomised what Victor Hugo wrote many years ago: “there is nothing like a dream to create the future”.
Until then I hadn’t given thought to how extensively the natural gas industry could be transformed.
As it happened, I went from sceptic to convert.
With Ben Wilson as my trusted adviser and others here today such as Jeff Connolly and Martin Hablutzel from Siemens, I led a small group of experts – all volunteers – to develop a vision statement called Hydrogen for Australia’s Future.
In there, we talked about the possibility of using hydrogen as a replacement for natural gas to heat our buildings, cook our food and warm our water.
After I presented our vision statement, I was invited by the energy ministers of the Australian and State governments to lead the development of the Australian National Hydrogen Strategy.
And once again, we talked about the possibility of using hydrogen as a replacement for natural gas.
The National Hydrogen Strategy was adopted less than two years ago, and here we are.
Surrounded by the future we could describe in the National Strategy, holding our breath to contain the excitement.
Four years ago, the talk about hydrogen was muted.
Two years ago, there was a buzz.
Today, across Australia and across the planet, there is a roar. New commitments, new funding and new projects are announced somewhere or other every single day.
The project you see here today is the first of its kind in Australia, and possibly the world.
It will be operated with safety as the number one concern, as it should be.
The second goal will, I hope, be to work with experts from fire brigades, industry, local councils, individual householders and regulators to ensure that future hydrogen production sites and refuelling stations can be just as professional as the one we see here today, but a fraction of the size and hopefully, a fraction of the cost.
We always learn from experience, but sometimes we learn slowly, and sometimes we learn fast. I am optimistic that in the evolution of the hydrogen economy, we will learn fast.
And so, I offer a metaphorical toast to:
My congratulations to the Government of South Australia and to local government.
To the industry participants – Siemens, BOC, GPA and Valmec – it is my pleasure to acknowledge your incredible contribution to this marvellous project.
And finally, above all, my congratulations to you, Ben, and all your colleagues at AGIG.
What you have achieved here is nothing less than opening the door to a better future.
May the Force be with you.
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