• Greg Morgan

The Aussie Hydrogen Plan

As the Coalition government grapples with a carbon zero future, business and industry leaders have taken the lead with a number of new and highly ambitious energy plans. The new hydrogen scheme announced by the New South Wales government for the Hunter region is among the biggest initiatives, and one of the nation's richest men is ready to get involved. With the European Union planning to invest 470 billion euros ($740 billion) by 2050, hydrogen is fast becoming an important component of the new energy mix.

Hydrogen is one the universe's most abundant elements, but it doesn't appear pure on planet Earth. In order to produce energy from hydrogen, it needs to be extracted through the use of technology. This has long been achieved through heat and chemical reactions, but it's incredibly polluting and only adds to the climate crisis. In order to make "green" hydrogen as a sustainable energy source, a strong electrical current can be used instead. This process, known as electrolysis, splits the water molecule into two constituent elements, with hydrogen then converted into ammonia for storage and transportation.

As the world looks for sustainable energy sources, the hydrogen energy market is likely to grow by leaps and bounds. Andrew Forrest, one of the world's richest men, recently pledged to produce 15 million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2030. That is a huge production jump from current global green hydrogen output, and it will require a huge amount of investment. According to Mr. Forrest, "Green hydrogen is an energy carrier - but unlike fossil fuels, it's becoming cheaper, it will never run out – and we won't cook the planet."

The NSW government is very much on board, with up to $3 billion in exemptions and incentives announced for hydrogen projects in the Hunter Region. With this money used to accelerate industry development, scale up technologies, and grow industry confidence, this part of NSW could become an international hydrogen energy "superpower". According to NSW Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean, the hydrogen strategy is a "game changer" that would create 10,000 new high-paying jobs by 2030. As part of the plan, the region is likely to see significant value delivered through the Port of Newcastle.

According to Clare Sykes, manager of the Hunter Hydrogen Technology Cluster, "It's very significant and a big endorsement for the Hunter... The state government is really sending its strongest signal yet that the Hunter region has the capacity and capability to be a major global player in hydrogen production and exports. We already knew this in the Hunter, but now we have a really clear plan of how we will get there. The Hunter [has] both the underlying industry to be able to create the demand, as well as the deep-water port to create a very vibrant and strong hydrogen sector for exports."

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