NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean has declared hydrogen the "breakthrough that changes the world", comparing its impact on climate change to what a vaccine will do to COVID-19.
His speech to a sustainability summit, hosted by The Sydney Morning Herald, follows reports that NSW would pursue large scale hydrogen production as part of its response to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, and that the federal government would call for expressions of interest in the creation of a "regional hydrogen export hub".
Mr Kean said he believed Newcastle and Port Kembla, with their existing infrastructure and heavy manufacturing economies, would be ideal candidates for hydrogen production.
Scientists and engineers around the world have increasingly focused on hydrogen as a replacement for fossil fuels because it can be created from water via a process called electrolysis and then burnt in individual engines, used to create energy in power plants or exported in gas or liquid form.
There is ongoing debate about whether public investment in the resource should be put into electrolysis plants powered by fossil fuels, such as coal or gas, and linked to carbon capture and storage technology (a process that creates what is known "blue hydrogen"); or whether the focus should be on hydrogen created with renewable energy alone to create "green hydrogen".
A leaked draft of the federal government's Technology Roadmap, seen by the Herald, suggests the government favours blue hydrogen as the cheapest and fastest option to help foster a hydrogen industry.