Declaring the Hunter Region a Special Economic Area would help attract investment needed for the region to become Australia's leading hydrogen hub, a new masterplan says.
The Hunter Hydrogen Infrastructure Masterplan, released on Friday, outlines progress on the Hunter hydrogen hub and identifies priorities for action.
Project proponents, infrastructure providers, industry, governments, education, research and energy experts have collaborated to produce the document.
"As a $66 billion economy and community representing the coal face of climate action and energy security on which the safety, competitiveness and future prosperity of the nation depends, all Australians have an interest in the success of the Hunter hydrogen hub," Committee for the Hunter chief executive Alice Thompson said.
The region's shared vision for hydrogen is already turning into reality with a number of Hunter hydrogen projects close to final investment decision.
In addition, more than $1.5 billion has been secured in government funding for local hydrogen projects, research institutions and associated industry decarbonisation initiatives.
The growth of NewH2, NSW's Hunter-based regional hydrogen technology cluster, has more than 800 subscribers representing around 300 businesses focused on strengthening hydrogen value chains and local participation.
Work is well underway to establish a Clean Energy Precinct at the Port of Newcastle, with plans for dedicated common-use facilities for hydrogen and ammonia for local industry and export.
"There is growing urgency in an increasingly competitive environment to secure the large-scale international offtake agreements that will underwrite investment in a global hydrogen hub based in the Hunter," Ms Thompson said.
"The region is ready and collaborating on our hydrogen future. With decisive action and targeted policy, the Hunter is primed to become a leader in the world's emerging hydrogen economy".
The masterplan, which was led by the Committee for the Hunter, sets out the next priorities to scale and speed up development of the Hunter hydrogen hub to become a global player in international energy markets, encourage business investment and reduce costs for current and future participants.
- For governments to confirm and promote the pathway for additional clean energy supply and infrastructure required to support large-scale hydrogen development in the Hunter for export, in addition to domestic use.
- Develop a Water Servicing Plan that complements the Lower Hunter Water Security Plan, incorporating the additional water supply and associated infrastructure requirements for a hydrogen industry in the Hunter.
- A coordinated approach to the planning, capital investment, operations, maintenance and upgrade of infrastructure in the Hunter hydrogen supply chain.
- Establish a dedicated Hunter concierge service for hydrogen and clean energy projects, precincts and associated infrastructure, and streamline development assessment and planning approval processes for clean energy projects in NSW.
- Address labour force shortages and skills gaps for hydrogen
The masterplan recommendations provide the pillars for declaring the Hunter hydrogen hub a Special Economic Area with specific incentives, policies, planning and regulation, and other conditions like access to shared infrastructure.
This would attract business, technology, innovation and workforce and leverage existing government support including Renewable Energy Zones, industry decarbonisation and hydrogen programs to multiply benefits from public and private investment.
"As a $66 billion economy and community representing the coal face of climate action and energy security on which the safety, competitiveness and future prosperity of the nation depends, all Australians have an interest in the success of the Hunter hydrogen hub".
Fichtner Australia chief executive and chair of the Hunter Hydrogen Taskforce Alex Dronoff said with the roadmap's strategic direction.
"The taskforce has been fantastic in supporting the development of the Hunter Hub and Technology Cluster," he said.
"Congratulations to our members, Origin Energy-Orica and Port of Newcastle who were shortlisted in the next stage of the $2 billion Hydrogen Headstart Program.
"This initiative will help Australia meet its decarbonisation targets towards net zero as well as creating jobs in an exciting new industry in the Hunter".