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MELBOURNE: Australia aims to speed up and coordinate efforts by scientists and small- and medium-sized businesses to develop hydrogen technologies, setting up 13 clusters nationwide in its race to build a competitive industry.

Government-backed National Energy Resources Australia (NERA), which set up the clusters, said on Monday the goal was to identify gaps in developing and commercialising hydrogen-focused technologies, such as for storage, distribution and use in microgrids - separate from projects underway to produce hydrogen.

NERA Chief Executive Miranda Taylor said small businesses were already starting to commercialise technology solutions.

“They really need to club together and build their ... capacity to supply integrated solutions to customers — whether it be customers in Australia or as we look not just to export hydrogen as a commodity but export our capability and knowhow,” Taylor told Reuters.

The clusters include universities, entrepreneurs, local governments and Tokyo-based Cleantech Japan.

The Australian government has committed over A$500 million ($383 million) to back the development of a hydrogen industry and included hydrogen as a priority in a 10-year plan to invest A$18 billion in technologies to cut carbon emissions.

Its main aim is to produce clean hydrogen for under A$2 per kilogram.

“Importantly, if we can get hydrogen produced at under A$2 a kilogram, it will be able to play a role in our domestic energy mix, bringing down energy prices and keeping the lights on,” Angus Taylor, Australia’s energy and emissions minister, said in emailed comments.