Will Tiwai Point become the world's first 'green hydrogen' factory?
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As emission regulations around the world tighten, brands look to find alternative fuel sources, and it seems that electricity might not be the long-term answer due to unsustainable practices.
Behind electricity, one of the most popular alternatives is hydrogen power, and we've already seen brands like Toyota, Honda and Hyundai introduce fuel-cell vehicles in international markets.
READ MORE: DRIVEN's guide to the Clean Car Scheme
Like traditional fuel, hydrogen needs to be produced, and while the world is yet to see a 'clean hydrogen' factory, it might be exactly what the Tiwai Point smelter could become.
It has been reported that both Meridian Energy and Contact Energy are investigating turning the factory into a large-scale producer of 'clean hydrogen'.
“Our renewable energy gives us a valuable head start and competitive edge as markets for green hydrogen develop,” Meridian Energy Chief Executive Neal Barclay told to Otago Daily Times.
"Early, large-scale production will allow us to build a domestic hydrogen supply chain and kick-start demand around the country.”
“This can be achieved by reducing hydrogen production when the country’s hydro lakes are running low, allowing electricity to flow back into the national grid to support local homes and businesses,” added Contact Energy CEO Mike Fuge.
This isn't the first time that the idea of turning the smelter into a hydrogen production facility has been raised, as Australian businessman Dr John Forrest first expressed interest in doing so back in May.
“The Southland region and its renewable energy potential makes it an exciting opportunity for development as a potential green hydrogen production and export hub,” Fortescue chief executive officer Julie Shuttleworth told RNZ at the time.
“[Fortescue] is assessing opportunities for projects globally, including in New Zealand, to support potential green operations. [...] We are pleased with our engagement with local stakeholders and government on the feasibility studies to date.”
While car brands are exploring the potential uses for hydrogen, the real gains are set to be made in the trucking sector. Hyundai's Xcient hydrogen fuel-cell truck is an example of this.