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ATSE Talk – The role of hydrogen in the energy transformation

Title: The role of hydrogen in the energy transformation

Speaker: Dr Fiona Beck – ANU

Dr Fiona Beck is a Senior Research Fellow at the Research School of Electrical, Energy and Materials Engineering at the ANU, and Convenor of the Hydrogen project for the ANU Grand Challenge: Zero-Carbon Energy for the Asia Pacific. Her research spans the boundary between nano-scale optics and optoelectronic device design: harnessing an improved understanding of light-matter interactions to investigate new ways to convert light to other forms of energy, with applications in solar fuels and novel light detection. Dr Beck currently holds a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) from the ARC, as well as the Future Engineering Research Leader (FERL) Fellowship from the ANU.


The global energy system will have to undergo rapid decarbonisation over the next two decades to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid dangerous climate change. Fortunately, the energy transformation is already underway, driven by the rapid uptake of renewable electricity generation. However, converting to renewable electricity sources alone will not be enough as not all sectors can directly replace fossil fuel use directly with electricity. These include heavy freight, aviation, and industries like iron and steel, cement, chemicals and aluminium. To truly decarbonise, we will need to find carbon-free energy vectors and fuels that can replace fossil fuels in a range of sectors. Hydrogen is a particularly interesting candidate for an alternative fuel as it has a high energy density and contains no embedded carbon if generated from renewable sources.

In this presentation, Dr Beck will give an overview of hydrogen based renewable fuels, looking at how they can be produced, and the technological challenges that they still face. I will discuss how we can leverage the success of the Australian renewable energy industry over the last decade to generate hydrogen, and provide some simple analysis to show the scale of the challenge and the opportunities for Australia to export our world-leading renewable resources.