The clock is ticking on the Hunter's golden opportunity to reinvent itself as a thriving hydrogen economy, NSW Treasurer Matt Kean believes.
"We need to move quickly and we need to move early otherwise we are going to miss out on the race to build the hydrogen economy, Mr Kean, who was briefed last week on several evolving clean energy projects throughout the region, said.
"We know Japan and South Korea, two of our main coal export markets, have said hydrogen is going to be the fuel that will power their economies in the future.
"I'm not saying shut down the coal industry, far from it. I'm saying keep exporting coal but at the same time recognise those economies that have underwritten our prosperity for generations are shifting the type of products they are after and we are really well placed to provide them. [We need to] make sure we build the renewable energy infrastructure that is going to power the production of hydrogen."
The region was selected as the only NSW hub site due to the high level of existing interest from industry stakeholders, its skills and research capabilities, infrastructure and resources.
The projects will connect multiple energy generators and storage projects across the regions with the aim of helping industry thrive and create new low carbon jobs
"To create the hydrogen economy you need very cheap, reliable electricity. That's why we are creating a renewable energy zone in the Hunter, to provide that cheap, reliable and clean electricity that is going to be needed to give hydrogen producers a competitive advantage," Mr Kean said.
"If you can harness the abundance of renewables that we have up here in the Hunter and turn that into hydrogen you will create jobs and drive investment that will underwrite the next wave of prosperity for this region and the state going forward."
But the Hunter's energy transition won't be without considerable economic risks and challenges.
NSW Minerals Council figures show mining companies directly injected $6.2 billion into the Hunter economy last financial year, supporting over 13,000 Hunter mining jobs and over 3400 local mining supplier businesses,
NSW Treasury's latest NSW intergenerational report forecasts that royalties (presently worth about $1.4 billion) are expected to more than halve by 2061.
Mr Kean said he was confident the Hunter could reposition itself as an energy superpower
"If we get the diversification piece right the Hunter will provide the energy needs of the state for generations to come," he said.
"That will see a wave of prosperity coming into this region like we have never witnessed before and we should be grabbing that opportunity with both hands."
The project recently raised $8 million in investment to expand its manufacturing and export capacity in a new premises at Mayfield West.
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