Australian Economy

Super fund Hesta aims to pump $100 million into Australian green hydrogen play

Leading superannuation fund Hesta says it is set to invest $100 million into Countrywide Hydrogen, after the start-up green hydrogen developer ratcheted up progress at several projects this year.

The new partnership will see Hesta fund existing projects but also have the opportunity to be a co-investor on new developments, says Countrywide managing director Geoffrey Drucker.

The investment is still dependent on due diligence and a term sheet outlines their “intention to jointly pursue green hydrogen projects and to advance definitive agreements” as yet unnamed.

Countrywide was bought by ASX-listed ReNu Energy in February, and although all of its five projects are still in planning stages it intends to have its home-made green hydrogen in the market within two years.

There are three projects in Tasmania and two in Victoria.

The Tasmania plans are for a 10MW electrolyser plant in Bell Bay and a 5MW version in Brighton in Tasmania, both of which will supply industrial customers and look to put hydrogen into the gas network.

In September Countrywide teamed up with solar energy company Wirsol to investigate opportunities for a 5MW behind-the-metre solar-to-hydrogen project also in Tasmania to bring down the cost of the gas for use in transport.

The two 10MW Victorian locations are penciled in for Melbourne and Portland; the former is to initially support the state government’s plans to introduce 40 hydrogen-powered buses, the latter is for use at the Portland aluminium smelter.

Drucker has previously told RenewEconomy all projects were expected to reach financial close in early 2023, and be producing gas in early 2024.

He said today the investment funds will go on the Bell Bay and Brighton projects.

“The project timelines will remain the same being dictated to by electrolyser availability and offtakers having access to fuel cell trucks and buses, and refuelling, as well as infrastructure enhancements by Tas Gas to blend hydrogen into their network,” he told RenewEconomy.

“In addition to Hesta’s investment, the funding mix will incorporate ReNu co-investment, project debt and available federal and state government grant funding support.”

Hesta CIO Sonya Sawtell-Rickson has been contacted for comment.

ReNu Energy CEO Greg Watson says the task now is to get Countrywide and Hesta to a final agreement and from there they can start locking in off-take partners.

Hesta has given itself the generous timeline of 2050 to decarbonise its investment portfolio completely. It recently lifted its interim target of normalised emissions reductions from 33 per cent to 50 per cent by 2030, from a 2020 baseline.

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