Australian hydrogen gets a Headstart

ARENA has opened applications for the $2 billion Hydrogen Headstart program, which aims to catalyse Australia’s hydrogen industry.

By: Andrew Webster

ARENA has opened applications for the $2 billion Hydrogen Headstart program.

Announcing the “significant step”, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen said: “[Hydrogen Headstart] is the largest government investment in Australia’s developing hydrogen industry.”

“Hydrogen Headstart will move the dial on the technical and commercial viability of renewable hydrogen production in Australia,” he said.

Announced in the 2023-24 Budget, Hydrogen Headstart is seeking projects intending to produce renewable hydrogen or its derivatives at scale. Successful projects will receive a production credit delivered over ten years of operations to bridge the gap between the cost of producing renewable hydrogen and the market price.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said Hydrogen Headstart is a critical step in unlocking Australia’s potential as a renewable energy superpower.

“With Australia’s abundant renewable energy resources, we’re well placed to be a global leader in the renewable hydrogen industry,” he said.

Renewable hydrogen has the potential to transform Australia’s energy landscape. It offers the prospect of transportable and exportable zero-emissions energy. It can also help decarbonise hard-to-abate sectors and act as an industrial feedstock.

But as it scales up, Australia’s emerging industry requires government support to compete globally.

ARENA and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) designed the Hydrogen Headstart program after consultation with a broad range of key stakeholders. The process involved 114 written submissions and three public forums with more than 400 participants.

Applications for the program will operate through a two-stage, competitive process. The initial Expression of Interest Stage is now open until 10 November 2023.

ARENA expects to announce shortlisted projects in early 2024. In the next stage, they will have around six months to prepare full applications.

How has ARENA supported renewable hydrogen?

The program will build on ARENA’s success as a leader in renewable hydrogen. Since 2017, ARENA has committed over $308 million to 46 renewable hydrogen projects.

ARENA’s support for renewable hydrogen spans early-stage research and development projects through to first-of-a-kind deployments. Hydrogen refuelling and hydrogen trucks, hydrogen for producing renewable ammonia, hydrogen for use in alumina refining and remote power have all received ARENA funding.

Earlier this year, ARENA announced $25 million for Hydrogen Research & Development (R&D) funding. ARENA allocated another $50 million to four hydrogen projects, supported as part of the joint Australian-German HyGATE initiative.

ARENA has also announced $47.5 million for the first 10 MW electrolyser plant in the Pilbara. That funding is part of the Renewable Hydrogen Deployment Round.

“ARENA has been there at every step of Australia’s hydrogen journey,” Mr Miller said.

“We are thrilled to be delivering this transformative program.

“As other countries step up their ambitions, Australia is meeting the challenge and providing the investment we need to stay competitive in the global hydrogen race.”


Andrew Webster