A group of energy professionals based in New Plymouth is building one of the world’s first green hydrogen refuelling networks, designed principally to refuel trucks in the heavy transport sector.

Hiringa Energy was created in 2017 to enable large-scale decarbonisation in a commercially sustainable way, motivated by a desire to address climate change. It will produce zero emission green hydrogen and is developing the infrastructure necessary to deliver it.

Its staff of 26 are passionate about making a difference globally. Hiringa – a Māori word meaning perseverance, energy, determination, inspiration, and vitality – is also part of the New Zealand based Hydrogen Aviation Consortium, formed by six international businesses to bring zero-emission aviation infrastructure to life in New Zealand.

“Addressing climate change is our key motivator and we are taking action to decarbonise some of the world’s most hard to abate sectors, such as heavy transport and industrial processes,” Hiringa cofounder and CEO Andrew Clennett says.

​The network will have four zero-emission green hydrogen stations – in Palmerston North, Hamilton, Auckland, and Tauranga – operational in early 2024 with a further twenty throughout New Zealand by 2028.

“We’ll unlock the power of green hydrogen for customers and partners who share our vision to decarbonise the industrial and transport sectors,” Clennett says. “We’ll do this by building an accessible, reliable, safe and commercially sustainable green hydrogen supply chain.”

Hiringa Energy will make its money from the amount of green fuel going into trucks and hopes to have a double- digit share of the long-haul trucking market within the next five years. Among its clients will be the country’s biggest fleet owner.

“We have a long-term partnership with transport leader TR Group who have thousands of trucks that they lease and rent to industry,” Clennett says.

Captain David Morgan (right), Air New Zealand’s Chief Operational Integrity and Safety Officer, with Hiringa Energy’s CEO Andrew Clennett (left) and Chairperson Cathy Clennett (middle) following the signing of a strategic alliance between Air New Zealand and Hiringa as part of Air New Zealand’s “Mission NextGen Aircraft” plan.

It’s all part of a clean green economy. Each large diesel truck replaced with a hydrogen powered truck is equivalent to taking between 50-150 passenger cars off the road. Hydrogen is a clean alternative to the fossil fuels we use in transport and industry. It’s the most abundant chemical element, estimated to contribute 75 per cent of the mass of the universe.

Clennett says the need to decarbonise at pace, reduce emissions, and to get on top of climate change is the “biggest challenge we face”.

“The concept of decarbonising our energy system is essential, it is an enormous task, and we need to do it as fast as we can. We need to stop putting more carbon into the atmosphere so that we can continue the lifestyle in this country that we enjoy and that other countries aspire to.”

The success of the startup will be easily measured. A green molecule is supplied, that molecule displaces carbon, and the more molecules that are supplied, the more carbon is displaced and more trucks with green fuel will be travelling the country.

Hiringa has been working closely with successive governments and key bodies such as the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority and the Climate Change Commission in plans to decarbonise transport. The cost of renewable energy is coming down dramatically, notably wind and solar, and hydrogen is particularly good at coupling its production with that low-cost renewable electricity, Clennett says.

“What we need to show is that we are on the pathway to where New Zealand needs to be for decarbonisation, and heavy transport is one of the things that the Climate Change Commission has been looking at. We need to be able to show that our programme is helping New Zealand achieve what it’s obliged to achieve around emissions reporting.”

Hiringa Energy team members were integral in the development, testing and refuelling operations for Emirates Team New Zealand’s innovative Chase Zero hydrogen-powered chase boat.

As an entrepreneur, Clennett says it’s essential to build a shared vision and be able to articulate that vision when founding a startup. “That is probably the most crucial – what are peoples’ why”? Why partner with us, why join us, why listen to us in the first place?”

Having a good business strategy and discipline is also key to successfully forming a startup, Clennett says, as well as being nimble and agile.

“We are not an island – we can’t do this without partners. We need to make sure we formulate our strategy about the areas of the market we are going to address. We formulated that quite early.”

One partner Hiringa Energy is working with is Air New Zealand. It has signed a strategic alliance with the airline to advance the introduction of next generation aircraft fuelled by hydrogen and this alliance will accelerate the development of hydrogen as a sustainable and renewable zero emission fuel for the airline. It has also partnered with Toyota and Emirates Team New Zealand to fuel their first hydrogen powered chase boat using a combination of cutting-edge marine design and technology.

In Australia, Hiringa Energy has been awarded a grant from the New South Wales Government to support a ‘green hydrogen’ and ammonia facility designed to slash carbon emissions from fuel and fertiliser at Sundown’s ‘Good Earth’ cotton farm in the north-western town of Moree.

Clennett says he wants Hiringa Energy to be clean, green, global, and meaningful. “We’re going to make a big difference to New Zealand industry and we’ll certainly put New Zealand on the map as a place to work with on a global scale – and that’s exciting.”

Story by Dave Crampton in partnership with Venture Taranaki

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