The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is putting its green into hydrogen technology for the first time by backing in an electrolyser tech startup to the tune of $750,000.

It was a major participant in a $5 million funding round led by the IP Group to launch Hysata, which was spun out of “breakthrough research” by the University of Wollongong’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science.

Hysata’s calling card is a cutting-edge electrolyser – the water-into-wine processor that converts H2O into its components of hydrogen and oxygen – which promises to carve the costs and boost the efficiency of extracting hydrogen with renewable power.

That is the sort of technical breakthrough that could help the industry reach its undated target cost of $2/kg that government bodies and industry say the sector will require to be cost-competitive with alternative energy sources like natural gas.

The Hysata technology has been branded “world-leading” and a “once in a lifetime opportunity to reshape an industry” by its proponents, including research leader Professor Gerry Swiegers.

The announcement has come at a good time for Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor as well, who has weathered criticism from Labor and the Greens over changes to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s remit that would expand its funding reach beyond renewables and into low emissions technologies including carbon capture and storage.

“The Morrison Government has a vision for Australia to be a major global hydrogen player by 2030,” Taylor said.

“Industry has a key role to play in helping us achieve this, which is why we’re backing research and development, and innovative projects like this one.

“Australian-led research will help to drive down the cost of new hydrogen technologies as we work to ensure that clean hydrogen can achieve cost parity with higher emitting alternatives as soon as possible.”


A cost-competitive hydrogen sector

Excitement about green hydrogen – a potential $US10 trillion industry by 2050 according to Goldman Sachs – has gathered the momentum of a steam train in capital markets this year.

It has emerged as the technology of ambition to decarbonise remote and heavy industries which are difficult to electrify the way, say, passenger vehicles are.

Australia has emerged as a hub for green hydrogen proposals due to its abundance of sunlight, wind and in some areas hydro resources, and the cause has been championed as far up the corporate ladder as WA billionaire Andrew Forrest.

While there are a number of emerging companies targeting the hydrogen market, the CEFC and ARENA – who are optimistic – have said there remains a long way to go before the technology is commercialised to make large projects cost-competitive.

The CEFC has a $300 million war chest from the Feds in the form of its Advancing Hydrogen Fund to support early developments before the market matures into a purely commercial beast.

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth hinted CEFC support for large-scale projects is getting nearer after announcing the Hysata investment.

“The CEFC has a strong focus on hydrogen-related investments, and we are actively pursuing large-scale investment opportunities through our new $300 million Advancing Hydrogen Fund,” he said.

“As expected, these large-scale investments can take time to develop, and we are looking forward to reaching financial close on our first large-scale transaction.

“In the meantime, we are delighted to have been able to use the experience and start-up investment focus of our specialist Innovation Fund to make this investment in Hysata.”