Friends say coal-to-hydrogen plan is an enemy

Michelle Slater

Friends of the Earth is calling on the state government to say no to coal-to-hydrogen production in the Latrobe Valley in favour for producing green hydrogen from renewables.

The environment group is encouraging its supporters to write submissions urging the state government to back 100 per cent renewable hydrogen as part of a Victorian Hydrogen Investment Program.

The Victorian Hydrogen Investment Program will help fund investment in research and trials and investigate drawing on renewable energy resources and gas pipeline infrastructure.

FOE campaigns coordinator Cam Walker accused proponents of the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain based at Loy Yang of “co-opting” an opportunity for green hydrogen by providing a lifeline for coal.

“Climate science has made it clear that we shouldn’t be digging up new coal, and we shouldn’t be encouraging new uses for coal,” Mr Walker said.

“The Latrobe Valley should be going through a transition into a clean energy hub, so why are we propping up coal when it’s on its way out? Let’s lock in clean energy.”

The HESC project will operate for a one-year trial to test a supply chain to transport liquefied hydrogen to Japan produced from Loy Yang coal, and is backed with a combined $100 million in funding from the state and federal governments.

If viable, it will be upscaled to a fully commercialised project, with emissions to be stored via carbon capture which is still being developed in Bass Strait off the coast at Golden Beach.

However, Mr Walker said he did not believe carbon capture and storage would get off the ground as it remained not proven to be commercially viable.

“We understand a big chunk of public money has gone into HESC, let’s not burn more good public money, because CCS is not going anywhere,” he said. “No one in the industry can say when CCS will be commercially viable, but they keep saying it’s imminent. HESC is a red herring, it’s not going anywhere because CCS is not going anywhere.”

Mr Walker said instead this funding could be used to develop renewable hydrogen industries in the Valley, which would include scaling up production for export.

“We understand there are no silver bullets to deal with transition, but it means mining less coal over time, we are not pretending it’s easy and we understand the scale of the problem,” he said.

Energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio said hydrogen fuel technologies could help boost local jobs in while helping to tackle climate change.

“We’re investing in this emerging industry so that Victoria is at forefront of the transition to clean energy,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

For more information about the Victorian Hydrogen Investment Program, visit