The New South Wales economy will be more prosperous following a shift to clean energy, and the state’s emerging hydrogen industry could grow to match the coal sector in scale, according to state energy minister Matt Kean.
Speaking at the Smart Energy Conference on Wednesday, Kean said that the state government’s vision for ambitious investment in new clean energy infrastructure would deliver lower energy prices and better reliability for NSW businesses and households.
“The NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap is a plan to transition our electricity sector. It’s one that is cheaper, cleaner, but guess what, it’s more reliable,” Kean told the conference. “By 2030, the roadmap will support the private sector to bring 12 gigawatts of renewable energy, and two gigawatts of long duration storage such as pumped hydro online.”
Kean has had to navigate an internal battle within the NSW Liberal-National coalition over the government’s energy policies, balancing a vision for ambitious investment in clean energy with a desire amongst Nationals MPs to shoot down any attempts to bring an early end to the coal industry.
Kean said that he believed that tackling climate change brought with it new economic opportunities and greater prosperity to the state.
“We just don’t accept that businesses have to shut and workers have to suffer for us to properly address climate change,” Kean said.
“On the contrary, we believe that a low emissions future is a prosperous future. Delivering cheap, clean energy into the supply chain of every business in our state guarantees an economy that’s bigger, that generates more jobs and better pay for Australian workers.”
Kean said that he was optimistic about the future potential of hydrogen to grow into a sizeable industry in New South Wales.
“I’ve spoken to some of the industry experts, some of the big players in the space, and I think New South Wales’ hydrogen industry could be as big as our coal industry by the middle of this century. So that’s exciting,” Kean said.
“I’m not saying that we should stop doing what we’re currently doing in mining and coal and things like that. I’m saying there are new markets emerging, and we should put ourselves in a position to take advantage of them.
“And if we do it right, that means we set up our economy, we create jobs, we set ourselves up to be an economic superpower of the future, and I think we owe that not only to the current generation, for the ones that will follow,” Kean added.
Kean suggested that New South Wales had no other option but to focus on the production of renewable hydrogen in the state, as it lacked suitable locations to pursue carbon capture and storage projects, that could otherwise mitigate emissions from hydrogen produced using fossil fuels.
“We can’t do other forms of hydrogen here in New South Wales because we can’t store the carbon,” Kean said.
“We don’t have the geography, or geology, to be able to do that. So we have to do green hydrogen, which only comes from using renewables. Our roadmap will help underwrite that industry.”
Also speaking at the Smart Energy Conference, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull labelled carbon capture and storage technologies as “BS”, and said a push for ‘blue hydrogen’ – produced using fossil fuels – was a delay tactic of the coal and gas industries.