Will hydrogen play a critical role in the energy transition?

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07 Jul, 2024

This post was originally published on Sustainability Matters

The role of hydrogen in Australia’s energy transition and more broadly was the focus of a panel at Siemens Australia’s Beyond 1% Summit, a major sustainability event held in Sydney from 3–4 July.

The panel, ‘There’s more to hydrogen than electrolysers’, was chaired by Florence Lindhaus, Head of Hydrogen and Energy at the German-Australian Chamber of Industry and Commerce. It featured Australians Dave Hodgson, CEO, Paladin Group and Brett Singh, CEO, Marathon Group, alongside Germany’s Stephan May, the Global CEO of Electrification & Automation for Smart Infrastructure at Siemens.

Lindhaus began the discussion by highlighting Germany’s current path towards its ambitious 2025 decarbonisation target, with the country now running on more than 50% renewables. She underlined the potential for Australia, “which can cover its own energy demand 27 times over [through renewables]” to export hydrogen derivatives such as synthetic kerosene to Germany, as the latter will not have the resources to produce all the hydrogen it needs.

Australian innovation and initiatives

Singh was invited to describe the sustainable renewable energy container — or SREC — units his company Marathon Group has developed. Designed as a mobile energy solution for industrial sites, the SREC units make their own hydrogen and come with a solar array and 100 kW recyclable sodium-nickel-chloride batteries. Marathon is based in Victoria’s prime energy generation region of Gippsland/the LaTrobe Valley. Currently the third-largest landholder in the state, the company has big renewable energy plans for Gippsland, including a 25 GW offshore wind development and a zero emissions airport.

Siemens has signed an MOU to work with Marathon on its renewable projects.

Next, Hodgson explained how Paladin Group’s “Cseq” (carbon sequestration) technology uses captured carbon dioxide and water to make green hydrogen, with the CO2 used to separate the hydrogen ions. It was a way, he said, of “turning carbon dioxide into our friend” and had the potential to render any company’s emissions totally inert.

While some in the Australian scientific community have questioned whether carbon can be used as a zero-emissions feedstock, particularly in relation to Paladin’s recent plan to reopen a Tasmanian coalmine to fuel a hydrogen plant, Hodgson said Paladin’s pilot plant (not located at the Tasmanian mine) is up and running, and the company is working closely with Siemens on the software for it.

Challenges and obstacles

Funding topped the list of challenges to getting hydrogen projects up and running at scale, with Singh saying the levelised cost of hydrogen was a deterrent. Hodgson said these types of project take time to monetise — “and there isn’t time to waste”. May added that there was currently a failure to see hydrogen as an opportunity for making the world a better place, with innovation being held back by a lack of willingness to collaborate.

Collaboration was one of the panel’s key themes, presented as critical to supporting innovation and tackling the urgency of the energy transition.

Hydrogen into the future

Renewable hydrogen, May said, has the potential to be used in many applications, including for green steel, public transport and fertilisers, and as a power storage medium. In terms of any one country’s energy needs, “there is no one-size-fits-all solution”, he said, with hydrogen likely to be part of a mix of approaches. Australia, however, has enough space, land and sun to make hydrogen a feasible solution, he added.

Hodgson said “some of the biggest emitters in the nation” have shown interest in Paladin’s Cseq technology, and there was also interest from South Africa. He added that Labor governments tended to be much more interested in hydrogen technologies than the LNP.

Singh said that collaboration and technology were key in progressing renewable hydrogen projects, and that the energy transition (including hydrogen) would bring over $9bn to the Gippsland region.

Lindhaus said Australia was “punching above its weight” in relation to hydrogen innovation. “The challenge is definitely massive, but the cost of not doing anything is far greater,” she concluded.

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A survey by not-for-profit mattress recycler Soft Landing Mattress Recycling has found that a majority of Australian respondents would be prepared to pay more when purchasing a new mattress if the retailer collected and recycled their old one.

The ‘Mattresses Matter’ Sustainability Survey revealed a high degree of concern about mattress sustainability, with 93% of Australian consumers saying they would be more likely to purchase a new mattress from a retailer that collects and recycles their old one.

Of the 1016 people surveyed, 62% said that sustainability was important when purchasing a new mattress, and 93% were eager to recycle their end-of-life mattresses responsibly to avoid landfill. 96% said it was important for their local council to provide a free mattress collection and recycling service through an approved recycler.

While only 26% have used a mattress recycling service in the past, 65% would like to use one in the future. According to respondents, the top three barriers to mattress recycling are lack of recycling services (58%), uncertainty of services available (54%) and cost (33%).

To remove these barriers and stop mattresses going to landfill for good, Soft Landing, an Australian Bedding Stewardship Council (ABSC) approved recycler, is calling for retailers and councils nationwide to partner with them to provide a mattress collection and recycling service to all Australians.

Soft Landing General Manager David Petrie said that 1.8 million old mattresses are disposed of each year in Australia. “Of these, it is estimated that over 740,000 end up in landfill. This equates to 5500 average elephants or nearly 2500 compactor trucks,” he said.

“They take up enormous amounts of space and contribute significantly to environmental pollution; it’s 22,000 tonnes of needless waste that can be reduced through responsible recycling, so it’s encouraging to see such positive consumer attitudes towards mattress recycling in Australia.”

Petrie said Soft Landing partnered with many progressive councils and retailers to provide Australians with an accessible mattress collection and recycling service but there was still much to do. “Australians are saying they’ll use mattress recycling services if they’re available — so why not give them the chance?”

ABSC CEO Kylie Roberts-Frost said that mattresses were included in the Minister’s Product Stewardship Priority List for 2023–2024 due to the significant environmental challenge they pose. “The data from Soft Landing highlights the critical need for a coordinated industry effort to address this issue comprehensively,” she said.

“Our objective is to see mattresses designed for longevity and recyclability, ensuring valuable materials are reused and waste is minimised, where reuse is not an option. This aligns with the growing consumer demand for sustainable outcomes.”

Roberts-Frost added that collaboration between ABSC-approved recyclers like Soft Landing, retailers and local councils was vital. “These partnerships will not only help reduce the number of mattresses ending up in landfills but also support consumers who are keen to make environmentally responsible choices,” she said.

“By working together, manufacturers, retailers and councils can play a pivotal role in creating a more sustainable future for the mattress industry.”

To view the full Mattresses Matter – Sustainability Survey Report, visit:

Image caption: Soft Landing is a national not-for-profit social enterprise and registered charity that collects and recycles mattresses to keep waste out of landfill while creating jobs for people experiencing barriers to work.

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