Hydrogen ‘superpower’ plan for the Hunter ‘will create 10,000 new jobs’

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Business and industry leaders say the New South Wales government’s ambitious new hydrogen strategy could see the Hunter region become an international hydrogen energy “superpower”.

The government says its new strategy will provide up to $3 billion in exemptions and incentives, and deliver a statewide master plan to accelerate the development of the emerging industry.

“It’s very significant and a big endorsement for the Hunter,” said Clare Sykes, the manager of the Hunter Hydrogen Technology Cluster, a recently established consortium of industry groups.

“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.”

wind turbines against a blue skywind turbines against a blue sky
Australia is home to an increasing number of green energy farms.(ABC News: Eliza Borrello )

Boost for hydrogen energy industry

The NSW government had previously committed $70 million to develop state hydrogen hubs in the Illawarra and the Hunter.

Ms Sykes said the “comprehensive and well thought out strategy” would be a significant spark to accelerate industry development, scale up technologies, bring forward investment and grow industry confidence.

“It 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.”

An open cut coal pitAn open cut coal pit
The NSW government says it will help the region transition from coal mining to hydrogen production.(ABC News: Tom Hancock)

Scene set for jobs transition

Bob Hawes, the head of business organisation Business Hunter, said the region also had an established energy infrastructure and a skilled workforce capable of transitioning.

“The strategy signals confidence for large, diverse and complex industries like that found in the Hunter to make the transition and protect and grow jobs,” he said in a statement.

The news was also welcomed by the Hunter Jobs Alliance, a coalition of union and environmental groups formed to advocate for a “just transition”.

Coordinator Warwick Jordan said it could be a serious jobs and economic driver, but warned it will take time for the hydrogen economy to develop and re-skilling the workforce must start now.

“We’ve got the facilities and the opportunities to be able to export it and we’ve also got that strong history and capacity in manufacturing which we can leverage to create jobs.”

Vow to create 10,000 new jobs

NSW Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean told ABC Newcastle Drive that the hydrogen strategy was a “game changer” that would create 10,000 new high-paying jobs in the region by 2030.

“We need to make sure that we are identifying these new big industry and employment opportunities in the regions that are under threat because of changes in the international economy.”