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Contact And Meridian Lead Way In An Intergenerational Opportunity For New Zealand

Last week’s joint announcement of a $2million feasibility study to investigate the potential of a large scale, renewable hydrogen production facility in the lower South Island by Mike Fuge and Neal Barclay, the respective CEO’s of Contact Energy and Meridian Energy, is the first important step into what could possibly be an intergenerational opportunity for New Zealand, says Dr. Linda Wright, CEO of the New Zealand Hydrogen Association.

“The announced potential closure of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter has resulted in unparalleled interest in the role that hydrogen can play in helping to meet and decarbonise New Zealand’s future energy needs, as well as providing significant export opportunities, particularly within the Asia Pacific region. Hydrogen is a key building block to multiple industrial applications, including renewable liquid fuels, plastics and other chemical feedstocks used in petroleum refining, ammonia synthesis and methanol production. Demand for green hydrogen will increase as the world transitions to low emissions”, Dr. Wright says.

“It’s been nearly 50 years since New Zealand has had the opportunity to push reset and take a fresh look at how such a massive amount of renewable electricity could be used to advance New Zealand, and in particular its goals of decarbonisation, fuel independence and energy resilience.

“With 60% of our total energy use currently relying on imported fossil fuels mainly used for transportation, industrial process heat, and electricity generation, green hydrogen production in Southland is an opportunity that needs to be taken seriously and explored judiciously”, Dr. Wright says.

Linda Wright says the availability of such a significant amount of renewable electricity creates opportunity for Southland and its skilled workforce, particularly given how heavily invested their economy is in aluminium smelting. “The good news is that should the smelter close there is potential to generate green hydrogen in Southland which creates opportunities for world leading partnerships and large-scale international investment to develop new export potential and to underpin hard to electrify sectors of the New Zealand economy”.

Dr. Wright says Great South, who is working with Contact and Meridian on the hydrogen feasibility study, was one of the founding members of the New Zealand Hydrogen Association, and Great South’s Strategic Projects GM, Stephen Canny, is also Chairman of the Association. Stephen Canny says Great South are extremely pleased they could contribute and drive the formation of the Association, which received seed funding from MBIE and ongoing financial support from its 37 Members who represent some of New Zealand’s most progressive companies, including of course both Meridian Energy and Contact Energy.

“Southland punches above its weight in terms of contribution to New Zealand’s GDP, and is well versed in attracting international interest and investment. Southland has an outwardly looking private sector conversant with large scale industrial projects and both Great South and the New Zealand Hydrogen Association look forward to supporting Meridian and Contact with this important and timely feasibility study”, Stephen Canny says.

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