How to avoid greenwashing hydrogen

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A quiet push is underway to label hydrogen made with coal or gas as ‘clean’ or ‘renewable’.

Hydrogen can be made with renewables, with oxygen the only by-product. Or it can be made with coal or gas, along with promises to store the resulting carbon dioxide.

There are numerous efforts here and overseas to standardise the labelling, before the hydrogen industry explodes.

Many people use colours:

  • Green: hydrogen made with renewables
  • Blue: hydrogen made with gas, with some of the CO2 captured and stored
  • Grey: hydrogen made with coal or gas and no CO2 capture

But the Australian Government has other labels under its National Hydrogen Strategy: ‘clean hydrogen’ and ‘low emissions’ hydrogen.

These vague terms are essentially rebrands of ‘blue hydrogen’ and should not be used. 

For a start, carbon capture and storage isn’t working well enough to clean up the CO2 from coal and gas. Secondly, ‘low’ or ‘lower’ emissions sets up a false comparison with coal, which is not the only alternative.

The government is currently taking submissions on a ‘hydrogen guarantee of origin’ discussion paper but it doesn’t include discussion of how hydrogen can be named or marketed.

WA LEADS THE WAY
Western Australia has another term: ‘renewable hydrogen’. Its Renewable Hydrogen Strategy lays out a vision of the state as a major ‘renewable hydrogen’ exporter but it does not offer a definition of ‘renewable hydrogen’.

However, with three representatives from the gas industry on the Renewable Hydrogen Committee, and none from solar or wind, you can have a pretty good guess what they’re thinking.

This image from the strategy lays it out.

Basically, ‘renewable hydrogen’ can be ‘gas’ with a bit of green hydrogen mixed in. This means the gas industry can expand its operations and get more taxpayer money under the guise of being clean. So, we recommend….

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