The NSW State government has announced a plan to attract around $80 billion in investment in hydrogen technology to advance decarbonisation initiative and promote economic recovery following extended COVID lockdowns.
Speaking at the unveiling of the NSW Hydrogen Strategy in Sydney, Premier Dominic Perrottet said supporting the development of a hydrogen industry was an opportunity to secure jobs in areas across the state.
""Australia has an opportunity to be an energy superpower, New South Wales will lead the country with this hydrogen strategy," Mr Perrottet said.
"Our major trading partners see hydrogen as part of their energy future, this state has the skills, infrastructure and renewable energy resources to compete globally in this new industry."
The state government's strategy will provide up to $3 billion in business incentives for the hydrogen industry as well providing exemptions from government charges and a 90 per cent exemption from electricity network charges for green hydrogen producers who connect to parts of the grid with spare capacity.
A hydrogen refuelling station network is also planned to be rolled out across the state.
Treasury and Energy Minister Matt Kean said the plan is forecast to increase the size of the NSW economy by more than $600 million by 2030.
""Hydrogen will not only help the State halve our emissions by 2030 and get to net zero by 2050, it will create new opportunities for our heavy industry, and an economic bonanza of investment and jobs," Mr Kean said.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said the hydrogen industry could provide significant opportunities for regional areas.
""We know that regional economies are diversifying, and the NSW government's Hydrogen Strategy is bringing that to life," Mr Toole said.
"Places like Parkes, the Illawarra, and the Upper Hunter are uniquely placed to take advantage of these opportunities, with existing supply lines, access to transport links and a skilled workforce ready to make regional NSW a leader in hydrogen technology."
The state government has already committed $70 million to develop hydrogen hubs in the Illawarra and the Hunter.
Speaking alongside the premier today, billionaire businessman and chairman of Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) Andrew Forrest said his company was committed to working with the NSW government to develop the green hydrogen industry in the state.
""At FFI we are doing everything we can as a business to lead the world effort to lower emissions," Mr Forrest said.
"We are planning to deliver 15 million tonnes of renewable green hydrogen to the world by 2030 - increasing to 50 million tonnes per year thereafter."
Mr Forrest traveled to Sydney after earlier this week joining Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to announce a more than $1 billion project to develop a green hydrogen manufacturing facility in Gladstone.
The Australian Workers Union welcomed the NSW government's announcement of its hydrogen strategy, but said the "massive jobs potential of the zero-carbon fuel source will be squandered if governments don't learn from the lessons of natural gas".
AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said the immediate jobs potential of hydrogen was obvious, but argued a proactive and strategic approach would be required from state and federal governments.
"Hydrogen is an incredibly exciting opportunity, because it offers fantastic opportunities to workers in the fossil fuel sector," Mr Walton said.
"We know Australia can become a world leader in hydrogen export, as it has the natural resources for the production of both blue and green hydrogen. But if that's where our hydrogen ambitions begin and end we're leaving hundreds of thousands of quality jobs on the table."
Mr Walton also said the technology to produce green hydrogen at a competitive price was still in development and governments should take a pragmatic approach to developing the industry.
"To assist the industry in getting a foothold as soon as possible, hydrogen production in Australia must be from a mix of blue and green hydrogen.
"It is not realistic to insist on green hydrogen alone straight off the bat."
Dr Madeline Taylor, a member of the Climate Council, disagreed and commended the NSW strategy for outlining the emissions and price benefits of renewable hydrogen over other forms of fossil-fuel hydrogen production.
"Only renewable hydrogen, generated through solar and wind, can play a role in our zero emissions future," Dr Taylor said.
"As one of the sunniest and windiest countries in the world, why would we invest in any other type of hydrogen?"
Hunter Hydrogen Technology (NewH2) Cluster Manager Clare Sykes said the hydrogen strategy presents an enormous industrial development opportunity for the region.
"Rather than leaving established energy industries at a loose end, this strategy will incentivise diversification and scale-up to encourage demand as well as production and we hope this can address the uncertainty that has existed," Ms Sykes said.