The New Zealand Herald

Meridian, Contact eyeing hydrogen production

Kiwi power pair seeking interest in giant plant generating ‘promising energy source’

- Hamish Rutherford

Meridian and Contact, two of New Zealand’s largest electricit­y generators, are seeking interest for what could be the world’s largest hydrogen plant.

Yesterday the two companies, which have large hydroelect­ricity assets in the lower South Island, released a report from consulting firm McKinsey & Co to investigat­e the potential to produce hydrogen.

The companies would face major distributi­on constraint­s if the Tiwai Pt aluminium smelter were to close. The smelter, owned by mining giant Rio Tinto and Japanese industrial company Sumitomo, has a supply agreement until the end of 2024.

“The plant has the potential to earn hundreds of millions in export revenue and help decarbonis­e economies both here and overseas,” the two companies said in a statement to the NZX yesterday morning.

“Green hydrogen is regarded as the most promising energy source to decarbonis­e sectors such as heavy transporta­tion and industrial processes that currently rely on fossil fuels. It is produced by using renewable electricit­y to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.”

They say more than $200 billion has been committed by Government­s and the private sector to support the developmen­t in hydrogen.

“The report estimates global demand could increase more than sevenfold to 553 million tonnes by 2050.

“Southland has the potential to be at the forefront of this . . .”

Meridian Energy chief executive Neal Barclay said developing a hydrogen economy based on large-scale production in Southland “could deliver significan­t decarbonis­ation, economic and energy independen­ce benefits” for New Zealand.

“Our renewable energy gives us a valuable head start and competitiv­e edge as markets for green hydrogen develop. Early, large-scale production will allow us to build a domestic hydrogen supply chain and kickstart demand around the country.”

The report claimed potential benefits from a 600 megawatt green hydrogen export facility include a oneoff addition of up to $800m to NZ’s gross domestic product, thousands of jobs during constructi­on “as well as up to $450m and hundreds of additional jobs on an ongoing basis”.

Contact Energy chief executive Mike Fuge said green hydrogen production could support New Zealand producing 100 per cent of its electricit­y from renewable sources. “This can be achieved by reducing hydrogen production when . . . hydro lakes are running low, allowing electricit­y to flow back into the national grid to support local homes and businesses.

“In this mode of operation, green hydrogen could solve up to 40 per cent of New Zealand’s ‘dry year’ problem. This flexibilit­y would see hydro generation replace coal- and gas-fired generation and reduce carbon emissions,” Fuge said.

Two further reports will be released as part of the feasibilit­y study this year. The registrati­on of interest process will run for two months through to October.

 ?? Photo / NZME ?? The Tiwai Pt aluminium smelter has a power supply agreement until the end of 2024.
Photo / NZME The Tiwai Pt aluminium smelter has a power supply agreement until the end of 2024.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand